When Buster Posey went down, many Giants fans hung their heads in a collective, preemptive sign that the season was, in many ways, over.
Without Posey, it seemed unlikely that the Giants would make another run at the postseason. The San Francisco farm system wasn't exactly bursting at the seams with young offensive prospects ready to fill Posey's shoes (which rumor has it are made of solid gold and can cure disease simply through touch).
But then there was Brandon Crawford. No one was expecting much (well, anything really) out of Crawford when he stepped to the plate against the Brewers and hit a grand slam in his very first major league game. But once he did, there was a spark of hope within Giants nation. It was as if a replacement player with low career numbers in the minors had suddenly changed the outlook of the 2011 season.
But Crawford wasn't alone in his impressive Giants debut. Many before him have put on the black and orange and exceeded all expectations.
Here are some of the most impressive debuts in Giants history, courtesy of Brandon Crawford's heroics.
Although he was acquired from the Marlins to be the closer in San Francisco, Robb Nen did not record a save in his first appearance with the team.
What he did do was pitch two shutdown innings, striking out five on the way.
He threw 26 pitches in his Giants debut, and 19 of them were strikes. The only contact the Houston Astros were able to make off of Nen that day was a weak ground ball to second, courtesy of Craig Biggio.
Nen would go on to anchor the San Francisco bullpen for the next five years, including 2002's World Series run. But the tone for his tenure was set early, in his very first appearance for the Giants.
When Bill Swift was acquired from the Seattle Mariners along with Dave "Gas Can" Burba and Mike Jackson for Kevin Mitchell and Mike Remlinger, he was a relief pitcher and had struggled with consistency throughout his career.
The Giants immediately switched him to the rotation and saw positive results in his first start of the season.
Swift threw 7.2 innings of one-run ball in his debut and more importantly collected an Opening Day win against the Dodgers. Talk about getting off on the right foot with Giants fans.
For the next two seasons, Swift would combine with John Burkett to form one of the NL's most formidable one-two punches.
Jason Schmidt started his Giants career in impressive fashion, showing signs of the ace he would become by baffling his former team (the Pittsburgh Pirates) through seven innings of one-hit ball and collecting eight strikeouts.
Schmidt would go on to become one of the NL's best pitchers during his Giants career, placing second to Eric Gagne in the 2003 Cy Young Award voting. He also struck out 251 batters in 2004, which would stand as a San Francisco single-season record until Tim Lincecum started re-writing Bay Area record books in 2008.
Ultimately, Schmidt will probably never get the respect he deserves for being so dominant with the Giants. He threw a one-hitter agains the Cubs in 2004 that was overshadowed by Randy Johnson's perfect game, which occurred the same day. His best season, 2003, was no match for Gagne's (allegedly) steroid-fueled antics, and his best playoff effort, a 2003 NLDS complete game shutout against Josh Beckett, was ultimately for naught as the Giants fell to the Marlins.
Talk about coming out of nowhere.
To this day, Sadowski remains the ghost of small sample sizes, living proof that career minor leaguers can capture lightning in a bottle and fool fans into thinking their team may have found a diamond in the rough.
Few Giants fans had ever head of Ryan Sadowski when he took the hill against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009, but he threw six innings of shutout ball, catching both teams completely off guard.
Sadowski would find equal success in his second career start, but the magic soon wore off. He appeared in only four more subsequent games before returning to the minor leagues from whence he came.
Brandon Crawford's debut couldn't have come at a better time.
The Giants needed a lift following a string of devastating injuries and underwhelming veteran performances. Things were not looking good for the defending champs.
But then Crawford stepped into the batter's box in the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers and blasted a grand slam in only his third major league at-bat.
Only time will tell if his grand slam was the emphatic arrival of a future star or a Ryan Sadowski-type mirage, but in the short-term, Crawford's impact has been massive. He has helped the Giants transition through a difficult stretch of the season, and more importantly has saved San Francisco fans from the dreadful fate of having to watch Miguel Tejada struggle through any more painful at-bats.
As offensive debuts go, it doesn't get much more impressive than McCovey's: 4-for-4, 3 R, 2 3B, 2 RBI
The future Hall of Famer set the stage for what would be one of the greatest careers in Giants history against Philadelphia in 1959 by immediately establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with.
McCovey would go on to hit 521 home runs in his career, and to this day remains a central face of the Giants franchise. He has continually represented himself and the game of baseball with class and dignity and is truly one of the greatest ever to play the game.
Ahhhhh Mike Remlinger. The former Giant turned Giant killer.
Although he ultimately spent most of his career in Atlanta, Remlinger was a first-round pick of the Giants, and his debut was a doozy.
In June of 1991, Remlinger threw a complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing just three hits (and three walks) over nine innings of shutdown ball.
Later in his career Remlinger always seemed to be at his best against the Giants. For reasons that defy rational explanation, I was always nervous when San Francisco played Atlanta (or Chicago, Cincinnati or whoever) with Remlinger on the hill.
And in the end, his career may not have been great, but his debut certainly was.
I probably ranked Will the Thrill a little too high on this list, but the guy hit a home run off Nolan Ryan in his first major league at-bat.
Talk about legendary.
Clark only went 1-for-4 in his team debut, but that one was so impressive and the rest of his career was so good, that his first at-bat has grown to legendary proportions.
The Thrill went on to make six All-Star teams in his Giants career and remains a fan favorite in San Francisco.
Juan Marichal not only had the best debut in Giants history but arguably the greatest debut in major league history.
For any pitcher, at any point of his career, a line like this...9 IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 12K...is phenomenal.
The fact that Marichal was able to do it in his first major league start and follow it up with a Hall of Fame career is unreal.
Marichal ended his Giants career with 2,281 strikeouts and stands as one of the greatest pitchers ever to play the game.