THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Crawford contributes any way he can

Carl Crawford was ruled caught stealing on this play and Brendan Ryan got an error for not holding on to the throw. Carl Crawford was ruled caught stealing on this play and Brendan Ryan got an error for not holding on to the throw. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / July 25, 2011

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This is what Carl Crawford signed up for.

He wanted to be a part of a lineup that could put up 12 runs on a beautiful afternoon at Fenway Park, a fitting end to yet another series sweep. He wanted to play for one of the best teams in baseball. That’s why he signed a seven-year, $142 million contract with the Red Sox last winter.

“Definitely - days like this, the way the guys are playing,’’ Crawford said after yesterday’s 12-8 win over the Mariners. “It’s nice to be a part of this. You see it when everybody’s hot, and we’re winning games. Everybody’s smiling and giving high-fives. It’s real fun.’’

On a red-hot Red Sox lineup like this, it’s hard to stand out. But Crawford has attracted attention for the numbers he’s put up since returning from the disabled list a week ago. After missing a month because of a left hamstring strain, Crawford has gone 9 for 24 (.375) with two doubles and four RBIs in six games.

The numbers are solid, but it’s the way he’s hitting that’s even more impressive. He’s going to the opposite field - left field, for the lefthanded hitter.

Yesterday, each of Crawford’s three hits went to left. In the first inning, he hit a double in the midst of a five-run Sox explosion. In the fifth, his single drove in two runs and, once again, kept a rally going. The Sox put up five runs that inning, too.

“That’s part of trying to get your swing back right - trying to go the other way,’’ Crawford said. “It’s rare that the pitchers throw in. You want to have your opposite-field stroke down pat because you know you might get one - if that - one or two pitches to hit inside.

“It does ease your mind, knowing you can go to left and something good can happen.’’

Manager Terry Francona said he thinks Crawford might be an even better player now than he was before he went on the DL.

“We really weren’t worried so much about his legs, because he worked so hard and he looked like he was moving around so much,’’ Francona said. “He did so much hitting, and he’s come back, and he’s gotten himself comfortable real quick. That’s really helpful to us.

“Sometimes you play a guy and you have to let him ease his way in and get his at-bats, and he’s been helping us right from the first game back.’’

Francona said before yesterday’s game that he’s also liked Crawford’s aggressiveness on the basepaths. That’s another sign that Crawford’s hamstring is healthy.

And that means good things for the hitters batting behind Crawford, such as catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

“When you get CC on base who can steal bases, they start worrying about him and throwing over the plate,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “That makes it easier on us. He’s a career .300 hitter. He’s not going to all of the sudden start hitting .220. The fact that he’s healthy, his hamstring is good, I think is the main, important [thing].’’

Francona was asked to compare Crawford’s swing from April to now.

“Oh, he was struggling,’’ Francona said. “He was so late and quick, and now he’s getting into the hitting position so much easier. There’s balance and he’s seeing the ball and swinging at strikes and using all the field.’’

And that means?

“He looks like Crawford,’’ Francona said.

Crawford is experiencing the team he signed up for, and now his team is seeing the Crawford it signed.

Nicole Auerbach can be reached at nauerbach@globe.com.

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