SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly added a "splash hit" home run to their all-time total in Sunday's sixth inning at AT&T Park, but Pablo Sandoval's prodigous drive struck a flagpole and caromed into the seats.
The Giants almost won their series finale against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning, but Gregor Blanco was thrown out at home plate as he rounded the bases.
Fortunately for San Francisco, Brandon Crawford completed both feats and took a huge step toward establishing himself as a true everyday shortstop.
Unlike Sandoval, Crawford clobbered a pitch that met no obstruction. And unlike Blanco, Crawford could saunter instead of sprint on his round trip as his leadoff homer off Rex Brothers broke a 10th-inning tie and gave the Giants a 5-4 triumph.
Crawford's first career splash hit into San Francisco Bay, the 64th by a Giant, doubled as his first walk-off hit since July 24, 2012, when his ninth-inning single off San Diego's Joe Thatcher sealed a 3-2 victory.
Though the season's only two weeks old, this was a significant win for the Giants, who began their nine-game homestand by losing two of three games to Arizona. Back-to-back series defeats might have dented the Giants' resolve with the formidable Los Angeles Dodgers arriving next.
"This was a big game," said manager Bruce Bochy, who also observed after San Francisco's fourth consecutive one-run decision that "we're showing already that we're going to play a lot of tight ballgames."
If so, Crawford likely will be involved in most of them. Bochy stated at the season's outset that Crawford, a left-handed batter, might receive occasional days off against tough left-handed pitchers. Crawford has responded by hitting an even .500 (7-for-14) off lefties, compared to .200 (5-for-25) against right-handers.
"Now I just have to figure out how to hit righties," Crawford said, displaying his understated sense of humor.
In fact, Crawford has produced his last four hits, all for extra bases, off left-handers. But he denied that Bochy's remarks motivated him to confront lefties with an I-told-you-so attitude.
"I knew it was something I needed to work on," said Crawford, who hit .199 off lefties and .269 against right-handers last year.
Bochy didn't mind if his statement stoked Crawford's inner fire.
"You want these guys to say, 'Wait a minute, I can do this,'" Bochy said, adding, "It's not as if he was going to be in a platoon."
With the score deadlocked at 4, Crawford hardly looked doomed for platooning as he wheeled on a 1-0 fastball from Brothers, Colorado's top left-handed reliever who was mentioned as an All-Star candidate last year. Crawford paused for a moment before leaving the batter's box, making sure that his drive stayed fair.
It turned out to be the first extra-inning splash hit since Barry Bonds went deep against Atlanta's Ray King on Aug. 19, 2003. Crawford felt just a tad uneasy as he rounded third and saw his teammates waiting to pounce on him at home plate.
"It was pretty cool until I got my head bashed by everybody," he said.
That was the final act in a productive afternoon for the Giants.
Tim Hudson allowed a pair of homers but only one other hit through seven innings. He faltered as he yielded a pair of doubles to open the eighth, helping Colorado score twice to erase a 4-2 Giants lead. It was still an admirable effort for Hudson, whose 23 innings without a walk has exceeded Atlee Hammaker's season-opening, franchise-record streak of 21 consecutive innings achieved in 1983.
Angel Pagan contributed a two-out, two-run single to San Francisco's three-run outburst in the fifth inning. Pagan's batting .500 (10-for-20) with 10 RBIs in two-out situations.
Recalling Pagan's game-winning, inside-the-park homer against Colorado last May 25, Blanco nearly ended the game in similar fashion in the ninth when he delivered his first hit of the year, a two-out drive that struck the third archway on the right-center-field wall and bounded away from Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer. Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery saw Cuddyer briefly fumble the ball and sent home Blanco, who slid headfirst into catcher Wilin Rosario's tag after DJ LeMahieu's relay throw.
"It was so evident that he was out," Bochy admitted.
The play might have been scored a triple and an error had Blanco been safe. Asked if that would have bothered him, Blanco replied, "Definitely not." The thrill of his attempt to score obscured the disappointent of being thrown out.
"It was fun," Blanco said. "It was exciting to go home."
Crawford could say the same thing.