Red-hot Crawford sparks another rout
DETROIT — As Carl Crawford was racing around second base yesterday on his way to a stand-up triple, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek muttered a quiet thanks while watching from the dugout.
“That’s why we wanted him, because he used to do that to us all the time,’’ Varitek said. “Now he’s with us.’’
That guy has arrived, the one who tormented the Sox when he was with Tampa Bay, the one who merited a $142 million contact, one of the most exciting players in baseball — that player is here.
Crawford had four more hits, two of them triples, and drove in three runs as the Sox crunched the Tigers, 14-1, in a game stopped because of rain after 7 1/2 innings at
That’s eight hits in nine at-bats for Crawford, five of them for extra bases. He also scored five runs and drove in five as the Sox rang up 14 runs in consecutive games for the first time since 1998.
Welcome to the Red Sox, Carl. All is forgiven for being a little late.
The Sox have won 11 of their last 13 games and have moved into a virtual tie for first place in the American League East.
Since starting 2-10, the Red Sox are 26-12.
“We’re playing better baseball,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “That’s what we’re worried about.’’
“Better’’ is an understatement. A day after beating the Indians, 14-2, the Sox collected 16 hits against four Detroit pitchers. Max Scherzer, who had been one of the best starters in the American League this season, was done in the third inning after giving up seven runs.
“This just wasn’t Max’s day,’’ said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “Sometimes when you throw a bad pitch, they will hit it right at someone, but they hit them in the gaps and over the fence.’’
It started in the second inning when Jacoby Ellsbury’s three-run homer to right field made it 5-0. Then Crawford had his first triple in the third, a two-run shot to center that drove Scherzer from the game.
A second triple from Crawford drove in another run in the seventh. He then singled in the eighth, giving him consecutive four-hit days for the first time in his career.
In a span of 48 hours, Crawford raised his batting average from .215 to .244 and his OPS from .520 to .645.
“Just going up there feeling a little bit more comfortable at the plate, trying to get my pitch to hit, and not missing it when I do get a chance,’’ he said. “It feels real good just to be able to hit the ball and be yourself.
“I haven’t felt that way in a long time. To have that feeling back felt great.’’
The days of batting in the eighth spot of Francona’s order are likely history for Crawford.
“We’ve been talking about it, now we’re going to enjoy it,’’ said Francona. “It’s been two days in a row. Good swings, he’s squaring up balls, he’s pulling balls in the gap and using his legs. It was a matter of time, but it’s certainly nice to see.’’
In the past, a few big games have led to others for Crawford.
“Normally, it does,’’ he said. “We just have to see how it goes here. I’ve been feeling good the last few days. You try and keep that feel for the next few days. Hopefully it won’t go away just like that.
“It feels good. We’re winning, the team’s hitting and everybody’s playing well. It’s nice to be contributing and seeing everybody else swinging the bats well. We just hope we can keep that going.’’
Two players who were in the Pawtucket lineup last week also had big days. Drew Sutton, starting at shortstop to give Jed Lowrie a day off, was 2 for 5 with two doubles and two RBIs. And Josh Reddick, recalled yesterday, started in right field in place of an injured J.D. Drew and was 3 for 5 with three RBIs.
“Now here we are, playing, together again,’’ Sutton said. “You just try and take advantage of the opportunity.’’
Alfredo Aceves went six innings for the win, throwing 98 pitches in his second start since replacing the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka in the rotation. He scattered five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Aceves (2-0) has allowed two runs over 11 innings in his two starts, and yesterday he was in synch with Varitek.
“He threw strikes, he changed speeds,’’ said Francona. “I thought he followed Tek real well. It looked to me like he only shook him off one time, which to me, when Tek is catching, is a good thing. They were on the same page.’’
Aceves helped the Yankees win the World Series in 2009. He signed with the Sox in February hoping to repeat that journey. He likes what he sees of his new team in recent days.
“You knew this would happen,’’ he said. “This team has so much talent. If you ask me if I’m surprised, I’m not surprised. This is what we expected.’’