DANNY AND GALLANT

Mariners’ J.P. Crawford, still raking faces, ‘just comfortable’ at the plate

Jun 23, 2021, 12:09 PM | Updated: 12:30 pm
Mariners J.P. Crawford...
J.P. Crawford's grand slam on Saturday was his fifth home run of the season. (Getty)
(Getty)

After J.P. Crawford delivered a two-run single to help the Mariners beat Cleveland ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber on May 16, he had the quote of the season thus far after the 3-2 victory.

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“Bring it on, I’m going to rake your face,” Crawford said at the time. “That’s what I’m thinking in the box.”

It appears that he’s continued to think like that.

Since that game, Crawford has hit .311 with four home runs, 11 doubles and an .843 OPS, and he’s been integral as Seattle’s leadoff hitter and Gold Glove shortstop during their current run that includes a five-game winning streak and eight wins over their last nine games.

Crawford joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Paul Gallant on Wednesday morning and talked about his own performance and what the team has been able to accomplish lately.

One of the first things Gallant needed to know was the key at the plate for the 26-year-old Crawford, who has truly broken out at the plate for the first time in his career and is starting to generate some All-Star buzz.

What Crawford’s emergence says about what’s coming for the Mariners

“I’m just comfortable. I’m seeing the ball well and I’m not missing pitches to hit that often, so I think that’s been the key this year,” Crawford said.

Crawford’s bat is not the only important part of his game, of course. Before he turned things around in the batter’s box this season, he became one of the best defensive shortstops in the league last season, earning his first career Gold Glove. Crawford credits Perry Hill, Seattle’s infield coach, for not just his own turnaround but the way the entire Mariners’ infield has performed this year.

“We work our butts off every day in the infield,” he said. “We take ground balls every day before batting practice. That’s all props to ‘Bone,’ our infield coach Perry Hill. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think any of us would be in this position. I wouldn’t have my Gold Glove, I know that. … He gets us right every day and he holds us accountable every day, so we’re out there working our butts off, man. I can’t thank him enough for that.”

The Mariners acquired Crawford in a trade with Philadelphia after the 2018 season, and the former highly-ranked prospect always points to Hill for getting his career back on track following a rough first couple of seasons with the Phillies.

“He just made baseball so easy again,” Crawford said. “My first year or two in the MLB, I don’t know what was happening. I was making bad throws. I really had no idea what was going on. And then I worked with Perry in the offseason of 2019 and he just tweaked my mechanics a little bit, figured out I was crossing my feet and my arm was way too long and I needed to shorten it up. He really just made it so easy and so simple, and it was life-changing. So yeah, he really changed my career.”

A word on Shed

While Crawford has earned his share of headlines over the last month, another Mariners player who has turned heads recently is Shed Long Jr., who came off the injured list earlier this month following his recovery from offseason shin surgery and has a game-winning home run in each of Seattle’s last two games entering Wednesday.

Crawford said Long, 25, is just starting to show what he can do in the big leagues.

“Oh man, it’s good to see my boy back out there. He’s finally healthy again – he was dealing with that leg all year but no one knew,” Crawford said. “So he’s back out here healthy and you guys are in for a show. He’s about to go on a tear, I feel like. He’s just getting started, too, and I can’t wait to see how this year goes for him.”

Mariners appreciate the support

The shortened 2020 MLB season was odd for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest was the lack of fans in the stands. Crawford said the return of crowds at T-Mobile Park has been appreciated this year.

“Last year was terrible, I can’t even lie. It was terrible not having any fans in the stands because fans are what gets us going. … You make a nice play and you got no one cheering for you – it’s like, ‘OK. Cool.’ … Their energy gives us energy and we play off of that, so it’s definitely nice to have them back cheering us on. We all love it.”

You can listen to the full interview with Crawford in the video below or in the podcast of Wednesday’s edition of The Paul Gallant Show at this link.

Follow Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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Mariners’ J.P. Crawford, still raking faces, ‘just comfortable’ at the plate