Brandon Crawford plays well despite backlash from Cardinals fans

Brandon Crawford received a spot start on Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies, and he showed up.
St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies
St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

When the lineup card for the St. Louis Cardinals' first game of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies was announced, fans were questioning manager Oliver Marmol. Rather than playing his stud rookie shortstop who was on an 18-game hitting streak, Marmol opted to play veteran Brandon Crawford.

Some context for this move is necessary. Masyn Winn experienced some back pain early in the season, so he was getting off days more frequently anyway. Pair that need for some rest with the off day Thursday, and you have a well-rested Masyn Winn for at least the next 4 games. The Cardinals have 10 games in a row over the next week and a half, so rest is paramount for all players.

Additionally, the Phillies were rolling out one of their best pitchers in Aaron Nola. Nola, a right-handed pitcher, has historically pitched less exceptionally against left-handed batters. Crawford's inclusion in the series opener is less curious now with these facts in mind.

However, fans still took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to voice their outrage with the lineup construction. Brandon Crawford, prior to tonight's game, was slashing .097/.176/.097 for an OPS+ of -18. 100 is average for OPS+, so I'm not really even sure how to interpret a negative score. Crawford had but 3 hits on the season, and he had struck out 12 times in only 34 at-bats already.

Crawford proved fans wrong on this particular occasion. He was the first to get a hit off Nola in the game with his solo home run in the third inning. Later, Crawford would rope a single, make a diving stop to take a hit away from Nick Castellanos and be a part of a smooth double play with second baseman Nolan Gorman.

Crawford's inclusion on the roster has come into question in the last week or two; Jeff Jones of The Belleville News-Democrat wrote a wonderful piece on Crawford's decision to play baseball at all this year. St. Louis also called up infielder Jose Fermin from AAA Memphis to take Lars Nootbaar's spot on the roster. There were more capable options to play shortstop if Winn was not starting today, at least on paper.

Brandon Crawford has been instrumental this year for the Cardinals, but not with his on-field performance necessarily. Rather, he's been key in Masyn Winn's development. Crawford has been one of Winn's biggest supporters, saying recently that "I'd be surprised if an 18-game hit streak is his career high at the end of it." That's high praise coming from a player who has seen stars come and go during his 13-year tenure in the league.

While Brandon Crawford won't play often this season, he still seems to be an integral part of the Cardinals' clubhouse for now. He isn't going anywhere for the time being, and even in his age-37 season, the veteran shortstop has a lot to contribute to the team both on the field and off the field.