I don’t know how many more games Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford will play for the San Francisco Giants. If the season falls apart, the finale might come in a few months. It could come at the end of the year, when their contracts run up. It could even come in a few years.
Days like Saturday increase the odds of that final guess being the accurate one. Belt and Crawford, after surprising seasons of excellence in 2020, are once again looking like the type of reliable, high-quality players that championship teams are built around.
Last year it was easy to make pessimistic justifications that the season the Brandons had was an outlier. Believe me: I’m an optimist and I still made them all. It was a 60-game season, it was a weird year, the hiatus hurt pitchers more than batters, etc.
Some of those things are inevitably true. But with every passing game in 2021, it seems like Belt and Crawford being good players, and the Giants coaching staff having a very long resume of success in a very short amount of time, are also elements.
Players and their performances contain multitudes, it seems.
Anyway, you can see where I’m going with this. The Giants got a vintage performance from the Brandons, except maybe it wasn’t vintage. Maybe it was just a performance.
Crawford got the party started with a three-run bomb in the second inning.
The Padres scrapped to get one of those runs back, but Belt stepped in to get it right back.
That’s seven homers on the year for each Brandon. It’s a long season and both players have a history of running hot and cold, so I’m not ready to proclaim that they’ll both magically top 30 dingers for the first time in their careers. But we’re about 20% through the season and they both have an OPS exceeding .850, while also being a big part of the Giants defense not being the disaster most of us predicted.
I lost track of the narrative arc of this article because of those dingers, but the point I was trying to make is this: the Giants are hoping to be a very competitive team in 2022 and their books for next year have holes at shortstop and first base. Forget sentimentality and stories, re-signing either — or both — might just be a great baseball move.
A kid can dream.
Now that I’ve waxed about the Brandons, let’s turn to the third dinger of the night, courtesy of porn-’stached Austin Slater. This is, to use the parlance of our time, an absolute unit.
On the other side of things, Kevin Gausman was dominant when you weigh for the quality of the opponent. He went 6 innings, and gave up just 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run, while striking out 7. In throwback Giants form, he seemed to do his best work when the stress rose — such as in the fifth inning, when he allowed a leadoff single to Fernando Tatis Jr., then struck out Trent Grisham, struck out Manny Machado, and struck out Eric Hosmer.
This was the Machado K, which was fun.
The Padres are very upset about a ... perfect 96 mph fastball that was correctly called pic.twitter.com/dC4FhpA1TH— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 8, 2021
Zack Littell, Tyler Rogers, and Caleb Barager combined for 3 scoreless innings of bullpen work, and the Giants won 7-1. They bounced back from a disappointing series against the Colorado Rockies to win a series against the Padres, with a Mother’s Day chance for a sweep.
And a 2.5 game lead in the NL West, with the league’s best run differential.