Bonta Hill: Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford will be key to any San Francisco Giants playoff push

South Beach has gotten the best of the Bay Area over the past two nights. It’s disappointing, considering the fact that the San Francisco Giants — who have lost two straight to the rebuilding Miami Marlins — are coming off of a series win against the Washington Nationals.

The Giants beat three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in the decisive third game, thanks to one of their two Brandons: Brandon Crawford went 3-for-3 against Scherzer, including a two-run, second-deck bomb off of him that was the difference in the game. The go-ahead homer helped deal Scherzer his first loss in two months.

While his fellow Brandon — Belt — has been recovering from appendicitis, Crawford has continued to be one of the hottest bats in baseball. Once Belt — who was hitting .307 before going down — returns, the Giants will have a pair of potential game-changers in the middle of the lineup.

Crawford, a three-time Gold Glove award winner, was batting .189 through April. Since the calendar flipped to May, the 31-year old is batting a ridiculous .449. This could be the season he starts in the MLB All-Star Game. As of Tuesday, he has the fifth-most votes of any player, regardless of position, in the National League, and is the leading votegetter among National League shortstops. Should he make the team — and by all rights, he should — it would be his second All-Star nod, and his first since 2015.

A trip back to Washington, D.C., for the Midsummer Classic would be huge for Crawford, considering the personal issues he dealt with last year: His sister-in-law Jen passed away in April of 2017, and his wife — Jen’s sister Jalynne — had two miscarriages.

Belt, who’s the biggest enigma wearing orange and black, was well on his way to an All-Star nod before he was forced to have an emergency appendectomy back on June 2.

Belt has reportedly already begun taking soft toss, throwing and other baseball activities. He’s also reportedly slated to take regular batting practice on Wednesday before rejoining the team later this week in Los Angeles.

Belt was balling before the appendectomy. His .950 OPS and team-leading 11 homers were a jolt the Giants needed from their oft-criticized first baseman. His resurgence is huge considering all the worries around his concussion issues leading into the 2018 season — his last game of 2017 came August 4 due to a concussion knocking him out.

Without Crawford and Belt, the Giants certainly wouldn’t find themselves just four games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks, let alone one game under .500.

Eventually the Giants will need offseason acquisitions Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen to heat up, and will also need Buster Posey to go on one of his annual mid-summer tears. For now, though, they’ll ride the Brandons for as long as they can.

As it stands, Crawford is batting .329 — top five in the National League — with eight home runs and 32 RBI. He’s in the top 10 in the National League in doubles, and remarkably has hit into just two double plays this season.

When Belt gets back — which could be within the next two weeks — the Brandons will continue to try to damage together, could be playing in October because of their sustained success at the plate.

Bonta Hill
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