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What's gotten into Coco Crisp?

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  September 9, 2008 12:28 AM

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There may not be a more incredible statistic in baseball at the moment than this: Coco Crisp is hitting .291. That, by itself, is somewhat pedestrian. But consider: Only 23 days ago, Crisp went to bed batting .246. He has 28 hits in 55 at bats since. That’s .509 since Aug. 17. Dustin Pedroia wishes he was as hot as Coco Crisp. The man has raised his average 45 points in less than a month.

Tonight was more of the same, and even though his 3-for-3 game didn’t factor into any Red Sox runs, Crisp’s emergence is becoming as one of the more improbable and fascinating storylines of the Red Sox season. After some tumultuous moments – the spring training “I want to play” mini-saga, the haymaker he threw at James Shields – Crisp is likely to finish 2008 with his best season in his three years with the Red Sox.

“I’m just going up there and trying to stay within the count, I guess,” Crisp said. “See the ball, hit the ball. Focus on the counts. Oh-0, 1-1, whatever, and trying to take the approach pitch-by-pitch.”

Before Saturday night’s game – when Crisp was hitting a mere .467 since Aug. 17 – he offered a more existential explanation.

“I’ve been getting lucky,” Crisp said. “I got dribblers, a bunt base hit. That’s how you get rolling, so hopefully I can continue being lucky and getting those balls to hit sharp, bounce back and get little bloopers off gloves. That’s some of the biggest things. That’s how you get those good three or four games, unless you’re like Pedroia and you just hit everything hard.”

He had blasted a triple to the gap the night before. I told him that didn’t seem like it took much luck.

“It was lucky that he made it in the gap where he couldn’t catch it,” Crisp said.

Well, if that’s true, then isn’t everything in life luck?

“There you go,” Crisp said. “Every guy gets lucky.

“I don’t really care. I go out there and do my best, and whatever results happen, so be it. You know? You can’t do nothing about. You try your best, you fail, you tried your best. You succeed, you tried your best. I don’t think you should look at it any different. It’s just, whatever happens happens.”

The timing of his hot streak, for his own sake and for the Red Sox, could hardly be better. With J.D. Drew coming back soon and Mark Kotsay around, the Sox will have a glut of outfielders. Crisp made his wish for playing time clear before the season, and right now Terry Francona can’t keep him off the field. His hot bat lengthens the Red Sox lineup and gives them a sort of second leadoff hitter, a dynamic wild card as the playoffs near.

(All of that's contingent upon Crisp staying hot, which regression to the mean tells us will not happen. He won't hit .509 for the rest of year; that we know. But if he can rake at .291 -- his current average(!) -- that's a great weapon in the ninth slot.)

Crisp did seem to take some satisfaction from his recent streak tonight, based on how eventful his season has been. “It’s been a long road back from injuries, suspensions,” Crisp said. “I’m just trying to find myself.”

On a final note, two quick items to add to your to-do list:

-Wish the best for Loyce Crisp. Coco’s father watched the game from the hospital tonight. Coco, surrounded by television cameras, made a point to say hello to his father after the game, and he said Loyce is in good shape.

-Pity Sean Casey. He owns Tom Brady in the Red Sox fantasy football league.

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