OAKLAND — The last time Brandon Crawford was fully healthy, the Giants were still in the thick of a playoff race.
It has been more than six weeks since Crawford banged his left knee sliding into home plate in Atlanta. Coming in the middle of an ultracompetitive series with the reigning champs, before it became clear Crawford would require not one but two stints on the injured list, it would have been easy then to imagine seeing the collision replayed during a potential playoff series.
Crawford returned to the Giants’ lineup Saturday in Oakland, along with Joc Pederson, but it is becoming increasingly likely that there will be no such series — not involving the Giants, at least.
The Giants’ postseason odds, according to FanGraphs, have fallen from 66% on June 21, the date of Crawford’s injury, to 3.4% entering Saturday’s game. They have gone from a half-game up in the wild card to seven games out.
Those slim chances likely hang on the production the Giants are able to get from their cast of injured veterans due back in the coming days. In addition to Crawford (left knee) and Pederson (concussion), Thairo Estrada (concussion) and Evan Longoria (hamstring) are expected to rejoin the club within the next week.
That means no more of rookie third baseman David Villar (optioned back to Triple-A) or fill-in shortstop Dixon Machado (designated for assignment) — and a more potent lineup. With Pederson leading off and Crawford batting sixth Saturday, that shifted LaMonte Wade Jr. and Tommy La Stella into the final two spots of the order.
“This is the deepest our lineup has been in a little while,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “With all our pieces back, it just feels like there’s more quality up and down the roster coming off the bench and in the lineup.”
The hope with Crawford is that the knee injury and his other ailments are behind him after spending five of the past six weeks sidelined. Although he returned briefly from an initial stint on the IL, Crawford said he felt the discomfort in his knee reappear by his second game back.
Overall, Crawford is hitting .215/.297/.332, an OPS that would be the lowest since his rookie season and a drop of more than 200 points from last season. Despite those numbers, the Giants are 38-34 in games he’s appeared in, versus 13-21 without him.
“I feel like he’s in a really good spot right now, physically and mentally,” Kapler said. “We really didn’t want to activate him too soon and you could see that there were moments when we could’ve pushed. It wasn’t easy to be disciplined in those moments, but for Craw’s health and wellbeing going forward, we thought it was pretty important. I’m glad we made the decisions we made because I think he has a chance to be very productive for us down the stretch.”
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