MILWAUKEE -- Just two nights earlier, Brandon Crawford hit a home run before a mere 519 fans in Bakersfield, Calif., while playing for San Jose, the Giants' Class A team in the California League.
On Friday night, he hit another one, only this time for the Giants on a much bigger stage and at a time when the team really needed it.
Crawford made an incredible big league debut by hitting a grand slam for his first career hit, leading the Giants to a 5-4 victory over the Brewers before 37,034 fans at Miller Park.
"We've had our struggles here getting some runs, so that was a big lift for the club and their spirits," said manager Bruce Bochy, who was ejected in the fifth for arguing a call at home plate.
"We're behind at that point," he said. "I'm very happy for the kid. That's a debut he'll never forget. I don't know how many there were, but it can't be many."
Bochy was correct -- it is rare. The 24-year-old infielder from Pleasanton, Calif., is the sixth player in history to do it, and the first since Boston's Daniel Nava did it on June 12, 2010. The only other Giants player to achieve such a feat was Bobby Bonds on June 25, 1968 in a 9-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Willie McCovey, Willie Mays and Jim Ray Hart scored on the play.
Grand slam company
|Brandon Crawford||Giants||May 27, 2011|
|Daniel Nava||Red Sox||June 12, 2010*|
|Kevin Kouzmanoff||Indians||Sept. 2, 2006*|
|Jeremy Hermida||Marlins||Aug. 31, 2005|
|Bobby Bonds||Giants||June 25, 1968|
|Bill Duggleby||Phillies||April 21, 1898|
"It was all unreal," said Crawford, who only played 14 games for San Jose after breaking a finger in Spring Training. "Awesome. I still have the jitters about it. It was a good moment."
The Giants were struggling against Milwaukee starter Shaun Marcum until Crawford hit the first pitch from the right-hander into the San Francisco bullpen in right field.
"You could just feel the whole weight of the offense just breathe," Aubrey Huff said. "I couldn't be happier for Crawford. Hopefully, this gets us going."
The Brewers had a chance to tie the score in the eighth, but Buster Posey's replacement, Eli Whiteside, held on to the ball in a collision with Prince Fielder for an out at the plate to end the inning. Whiteside blocked the plate, but moved slightly at the last moment to avoid direct impact with Milwaukee's big first baseman and preserve the Giants' lead.
With Posey likely out for the season with torn ligaments in his left ankle and a broken left leg, the Giants need to find someone to replace their star catcher's offense, and Crawford was an unlikely source.
He didn't start playing until May 11, when he was assigned to San Jose. Last year, he split the season between San Jose and Double-A Richmond, and had never even played as high as Triple-A before starting at shortstop for the Giants on Friday night.
Crawford was recalled from the Minors on Thursday due to the injury to infielder Mike Fontenot, who's on the disabled list with a left groin strain. In 14 games at San Jose, Crawford hit .322 with three home runs and 15 RBIs.
Giants starter Tim Lincecum (5-4) gave up a two-run homer to Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks, but was solid for seven innings. His velocity was down, but he only gave up three runs on six hits while not allowing a walk and striking out four.
"Nothing's hurt or anything," Lincecum said. "I felt like I was laboring through most of the game, for the most part. Sliders were flat. Fastball was down [in velocity]. Changeup was not really diving or anything. I was just trying to battle through and hopefully keep us in position to stay in the game."
Brian Wilson pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 16 chances.
It was the second game for the Giants without Posey, who was injured Wednesday night during a play at the plate. San Francisco was shut out in a 1-0 loss Thursday night, and struggled for the first five innings against Marcum.
The Brewers right-hander didn't allow a runner past first base until Andres Torres singled and stole second with two outs in the sixth. Freddy Sanchez's single scored him to cut the Giants' deficit to two runs.
The top of the seventh was Marcum's undoing. Huff, batting cleanup in Posey's absence, led off with a double.
Nate Schierholtz followed with a single, moving Huff to third. Miguel Tejada walked to load the bases.
Crawford then made it a memorable debut by sending the first pitch from Marcum into the bullpen, where the team retrieved the ball to give to the rookie.
"All I was trying to do was hit the ball back up the middle and hopefully get us a couple of runs," Crawford said. "I saw the ball up and took a swing."
Joe DiGiovanni is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.