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Sitting him vs. Price costly?

CARL CRAWFORD 0 for 9 against Price CARL CRAWFORD
0 for 9 against Price
By Nick Cafardo
September 19, 2011

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In the biggest game of the season, the Red Sox’ top free agent signing, Carl Crawford ($142 million worth) was left out of the lineup because he was 0 for 9 against David Price.

Not sure what the message is there.

We are not suggesting the Sox lost to the Rays yesterday, 8-5, because Crawford didn’t play. It’s no secret the left fielder isn’t having a good season. He would be the first to admit it. But aren’t you supposed to win or lose with your best players?

With the Rays now two games behind the Sox in the wild-card race, Crawford could have been 0 for 99 against Price and he should have been in the lineup. Are we taking these numbers too seriously? Could Crawford have gotten on base with a walk and then stolen a couple of bases and manufactured a run?

Was that a confidence-builder or a confidence-killer for Crawford?

Others with unflattering numbers vs. Price included Adrian Gonzalez (1 for 11), David Ortiz (2 for 16), and Marco Scutaro (3 for 22). They all were in the lineup.

In a lineup already missing Kevin Youkilis, did the Sox really need Conor Jackson playing left field? Is Jackson (2 for 3 against Price coming in) really a better option than Crawford? At any time?

Shouldn’t your $20 million left fielder be playing in games like this? Shouldn’t he be playing in the daylight when he’s hitting .313 with a respectable .865 OPS? Crawford is hitting .228 with a .611 OPS at night.

But again, throw those stats out the window.

When he was told he wasn’t playing, Crawford naturally was disappointed, but he’s not the type to make a scene. This never happened in Tampa Bay. He played. His name in the lineup was automatic, no matter who was pitching.

Yes, it’s a reflection of his season, but manager Terry Francona always says he isn’t going to run away from anybody. Yesterday the Sox ran away from Crawford.

Crawford entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter and stroked a double to the wall in left-center against lefty reliever J.P. Howell.

It didn’t amount to anything, but Crawford, good year or bad year, is a bona fide major leaguer. And at any given time, he can hit a lefty.

Crawford also had to be somewhat embarrassed to sit against his former team, which he’d love to do something big against.

When a team goes bad everyone tries too hard to right the ship. There’s a lot of over-thinking. Jackson was 0 for 2 with a walk yesterday. Whoever made the decision must have felt that Jackson could be a spark. But really, does he have Crawford’s résumé, speed, defensive ability, or athleticism? Does Jackson’s presence in the lineup make any sense other than a three at-bat sample?

Crawford can’t say anything because he knows he’s been disappointing and so he just goes with the flow as he often puts it. Sitting has to eat him up inside.

The righty-lefty thing, going by statistics, works to an extent. But a player’s track record and his ability to contribute in the clutch are more important factors. That’s Crawford’s résumé.

And, you want to get Crawford going, don’t you? You want to build his confidence. Sparing him against a tough lefty and a possible 0-fer seems to be a negative approach, one that an accomplished veteran shouldn’t be happy about.

The decision to sit Crawford didn’t accomplish anything.

The Sox didn’t get much out of Tim Wakefield. Mike Aviles made two throwing errors at third base. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a tough time trying to catch Wakefield with four passed balls.

It hasn’t been pretty lately, yet the Sox control their destiny.

What may save Boston is the schedule.

Because the Sox are playing the last-place Orioles in a doubleheader today as the start of a four-game series, and the Rays are playing the first-place Yankees in a four-game series starting tomorrow, we think, and actually believe, that the two-game lead the Sox have on the Rays will expand.

What we have to understand is that good teams and/or hot teams do extraordinary things. Cold teams, bad teams, and banged-up teams have trouble winning.

The Rays will face a Yankees team that knows it will reach the playoffs. The urgency to beat Tampa Bay is probably not as great as it normally would be. Sox fans will be rooting for the Yankees. It’s a strange dynamic, but that’s the reality.

The weekend wasn’t a complete disaster for the Sox, who avoided a sweep with a win Friday night. A sweep and the Rays would have been even. But after the rush of the Josh Beckett win, the Sox lost twice. The momentum is gone.

The Sox throw Kyle Weiland and John Lackey in today’s twinbill. Ugh, you say? This doesn’t mean that Weiland or Lackey can’t throw a pair of beauties and lead the Sox to a sweep.

Anything is possible.

But recent events can’t possibly give anyone a positive feeling about what’s ahead.

This isn’t May, June, or July. It’s mid September and it looks as if the wild-card race is going to go down to the end.

If that’s the case, you have to do it with your best, even if your best isn’t at their best.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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