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Red Sox Notebook

Lowering pressure on him

Crawford gets first hits batting 7th

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 4, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas — After watching Carl Crawford go 0 for 7 with four strikeouts in the first two games of the season, Red Sox manager Terry Francona dropped him from third to seventh in the batting order for yesterday’s game against Texas.

“Looking at him, it’s kind of obvious he’s trying too hard,’’ Francona said before the game. “As soon as he gets on base and he starts causing some havoc, he’ll loosen up and the real Carl will come out.’’

The move paid off in the second inning when Crawford singled down the third base line. He added an RBI single in the seventh inning.

The Sox were beaten, 5-1, but their new left fielder is feeling much better about himself.

“It was a relief to finally get the first hit. That way I could get that out of the way and focus on trying to get better and help the team win,’’ he said.

Crawford came to the plate with two outs in the second and sent a 93-mile-per-hour fastball from Matt Harrison down the third base line. The ball stayed fair, hitting the chalk beyond the base.

“I’m just happy I got the first one out of the way so you don’t start pressing a little bit,’’ Crawford said. “You have to relax up there.’’

Crawford seemed to be carrying the expectations of his $142 million contract with him to the plate. Francona understands how that works.

“Great kid. I think he’s trying too hard. I always watch him. I think it’s an admirable quality and I actually love it,’’ he said. “We’re two games in and he’s not had real good at-bats. I just want him to be able to relax a little bit and play.’’

Francona thinks Crawford will be fine.

“You could tell he felt better about himself,’’ he said.

The issue now for Crawford is helping the 0-3 Red Sox get their first victory.

“We have to play better and find a way to win,’’ he said.

Hard luck David Ortiz, who homered in each of the first two games, was 2 for 4 and is 4 for 12 with four RBIs in his first three games.

Ortiz thought he had his third home run when he hit a ball high to center field in the ninth against Texas closer Neftali Feliz.

“That ball was going to go way out,’’ he said. “I killed that thing.’’

But a stiff wind stopped the ball’s flight and it fell seemingly straight down into the glove of Josh Hamilton.

“There’s nothing you can do about that,’’ Ortiz said. “I hit that ball as hard as I could.’’

Not this time You probably know that Rangers president Nolan Ryan threw seven no-hitters during his Hall of Fame career. But did you know that Francona broke one up?

Ryan took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Brewers April 12, 1989. But after Glenn Braggs walked, Francona lined a single into left field.

Francona was a respectable 9 for 40 against Ryan in his career with only four strikeouts.

“I always knew I was going to play. Somebody would get the flu,’’ he said.

Hard to handle The Red Sox are 6-16 against the Rangers since the start of the 2009 season, 2-10 at Rangers Ballpark. Texas has won five straight against the Red Sox at home. “That’s a good team,’’ Ortiz said. “They didn’t get to the World Series by accident last season.’’ . . . Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz became the first teammates in major league history to homer in each of their team’s first three games of the season. They are the first Texas players to homer in the first three games since Dean Palmer in 1992 . . . The 11 home runs allowed by the Red Sox were the most in a three-game series to open the season going back to at least 1919 . . . Texas drew 144,828 fans, a record for a three-game series to open the season at Rangers Ballpark . . . Michael Young started at second base for the Rangers, his first start there since 2003. With Adrian Beltre the new third baseman, Young will be the DH and occasionally play third, second, and first.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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