Giants Seeing Offensive Improvement From Middle Infield

SAN FRANCISCO -- Every year, Brandon Crawford creates the playlist that the Giants listen to after victories. But there haven't been a whole lot of opportunities this season for Crawford to hit play on his iPhone knowing he had been the star of the show. That changed Wednesday. 

Crawford's solo shot in the sixth was the difference in a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays and continued what has been a solid progression over the last couple of weeks. The at-bats have been better, and Wednesday's oppo shot looked like something straight out of Crawford's torrid streak last May. 

"I felt balanced," he said. "I'm making a lot better contact, finally barreling it a little bit more and swinging at better pitches for the most part. That's the biggest thing."

The overall numbers are still far short of what Crawford would like, but there certainly has been improvement at both spots up the middle, and the Giants needed it. Joe Panik doubled Wednesday and has raised his OPS by 117 points over the last couple of weeks. Crawford is up 84 points since the end of the last homestand. 

The main story yesterday was about Shaun Anderson, who didn't get the win but at least could flash a wide smile after Crawford guaranteed a win for the Giants. Here are some other notes from a two-game series:

--- Pablo Sandoval had an RBI double on Wednesday and is hitting .364 with two doubles, three homers and eight RBI over his past eight games. He was in the lineup because Brandon Belt's knee acted up, but given what Belt is dealing with health-wise, and Evan Longoria's struggles, there's really no reason for Sandoval to be out of the lineup this weekend. 

If performance matters, no Giant has earned starts right now more than Sandoval. The staff certainly should be able to find a way to ride this hot streak through Arizona. 

--- Buster Posey will be checked again on Friday, but all signs are positive, and he should come off the concussion list and start. Drew Pomeranz will come off the Injured List to start Sunday's game. Jeff Samardzija goes Friday and Madison Bumgarner starts Saturday. 

--- The highlight of the weekend may come Saturday, when Johnny Cueto will visit the Giants at Chase Field and throw a bullpen session for the staff. Cueto has gotten up to about 40 pitches -- all fastballs -- during recent sessions in Arizona and all is still going well. The Giants are being coy about a timetable, but as I've reported before, he's aiming to return in early to mid August.

--- Finally, the closer: Will Smith was really, really good in the ninth Wednesday and has been all year. He is 11-for-11 in save opportunities, has a 2.70 ERA, and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning. 

It'll be fascinating to see what Smith brings back at the deadline. Just about every team now seems to prefer to build a bullpen with spare internal parts, but this is a lefty who can close for a contender with a ninth-inning need or easily slide into the seventh or eighth for a team with a stacked bullpen. In theory, Farhan Zaidi should be able to get a pretty nice haul for his closer.

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