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Crawford’s breaking bad

Trouble finds him hitting and in left

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 16, 2011

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It was the first time he had heard the home crowd of his new team turn on him.

As he slowly trudged back to the Red Sox dugout, having struck out in the ninth on a check-swing, Carl Crawford felt the frustration of the Fenway Park crowd of 37,467 boil over, as they voiced their displeasure with a leadoff man who had just gone 0 for 5.

They did so in the only way they knew how.

They booed him.

These weren’t the same kind of venomous pack-your-bags-and-get-out-of-town boos that rained down on Daisuke Matsuzaka after he allowed seven runs in Monday’s 16-5 debacle against Tampa Bay. They were boos, nonetheless. And it was impossible for Crawford not to hear them, or be stung by them.

But he understood.

“They have to boo, because I’m playing real bad and we’re playing real bad as a team,’’ Crawford said after the Sox dropped to 2-10 with a 7-6 loss to Toronto. “So you definitely understand it. You can’t be upset about that. You kind of feel their frustration a little bit. I mean, we’re frustrated, too.’’

No one seemed more frustrated than Crawford, who has yet to live up to the billing when he was signed to a seven-year, $142 million contract in December.

In six games as the Sox’ leadoff hitter, Crawford has gone 3 for 28 (.107) with 1 RBI, 3 runs, and 1 extra-base hit.

Asked if it might change his luck to move out of the leadoff spot, Crawford said, “I don’t know. With my luck right now, it’s been bad wherever.’’

After his 0-for-5 night, he is hitting .137 (7 for 51) with 2 walks, 2 stolen bases, and 9 strikeouts.

Asked if he detected any frustration from Crawford, manager Terry Francona replied, “Yeah, a little bit. Little bit jumpy.

“I thought he beat that ball out [on a grounder to first] in the first inning. I know he didn’t hit it good. But it’s amazing what something like that does. You go out to left field and you’re 1 for 1 and you feel OK about yourself.’’

But that wasn’t the case.

Crawford wound up getting called out on a close play.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s just the way it’s going for me right now,’’ Crawford said. “I just got to weather the storm and keep on fighting.’’

Crawford’s struggles weren’t limited to the plate. In the sixth, Travis Snider hit a shot to left that sailed over Crawford’s head and bounced off the wall for an RBI double that tied the game at 3.

“It was over my head, but I still could’ve made a catch where I landed on the wall,’’ Crawford said. “You know, that ball hasn’t come to me, just yet. So it was my first time getting that [type of] ball. Either way, I probably could’ve jumped up at it and given it that extra effort.’’

“He’s trying to do too much,’’ Francona said. “Trying to do it before it happens.’’

Crawford’s teammates know it’s just a matter of time before he puts it all together.

“We’ve all gone through these stretches,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “But we need him, man. We’ve seen what kind of player he is. You just got to take a deep breath and go play. That’s it.

“You’ve got to play through everything. You want your name in the lineup everyday when you’re struggling to find a way to get out of it.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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