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They’re off and running

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / July 18, 2012
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It was like Jacoby Ellsbury was Rusty Ryan and Carl Crawford was Danny Ocean. Ellsbury had been back four games, and hadn’t stolen a base until he decided to swipe one off A.J. Pierzynski in the first inning of the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the White Sox Tuesday night.

Pierzynski didn’t even bother making a throw to second, knowing that the split second he spent bobbling the ball on the transfer all but blew any chance of catching Ellsbury in the act.

Crawford, the next batter, made the White Sox pay, roping a single to right that scored Ellsbury easily.

Then, he got in the mood to snatch a bag off Pierzynski, too, taking second just as Ellsbury had.

He scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s single and after falling behind, 2-0, in the top of the first, the Red Sox were able to work their way back into the game in a blink because of the heists that the top of their order was able to pull off.

It’s a luxury, one that Crawford said the Sox will have to lean on, especially with David Ortiz being out at least a week with a strained Achilles’ tendon.

“It’s part of our game and something that we can attack teams with,” said Crawford, who added two more stolen bases. “It’s something we’re going to have to use, especially with Big Papi being out. When you’re doing it all the time it does become fun at some point. You enjoy doing it.”

Crawford and Ellsbury combined for five hits, three runs, four stolen bases, and an RBI, functioning as a two-man Italian Job for seven innings.

“It’s a huge difference,” said Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “They bring that presence to the lineup. They’re not an easy out. They’re a tough out. So it just kind of makes everybody in the lineup better.”

Down, 7-2, in the eighth, Crawford legged out an infield single, beating Kevin Youkilis’s throw from third. He came around on another Gonzalez single as the Red Sox tacked on three runs.

For Crawford, being at the top of the lineup lets him use all his skills. When last season started, Crawford was hitting third. By April 23, he was hitting eighth. Over the course of the year, he hit everywhere except fourth, fifth, and ninth.

It was the first time in his career he spent that much time anywhere except the second or third spots in the order.

“It’s been my game my whole career, I really didn’t get a chance to show that last year,’’ he said. “And I’m thankful for the opportunity this year to be able to have a few games to show what I can do up there and hopefully it’s a spot where they’ll like to see me stay.”  

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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