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Trouble was afoot

Trouble was afoot
ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. - One easily could dwell on the deficiencies the Red Sox had in holding runners yesterday.

Specifically the high leg kicks of Brad Penny, Manny Delcarmen, and Ramon Ramirez, or at least the lack of a slide step by the righthanders to keep runners honest. One could dwell on the unfortunate day of catcher Jason Varitek, even though the majority of the eight steals by the Rays in yesterday's 5-3 Tampa Bay win were off the pitchers.

To do that would be taking away from an extraordinary performance by Carl Crawford, who went 6 for 6 in steals and became one of four major leaguers to steal a half-dozen in one game. He now shares the record with Eric Young, Otis Nixon, and Eddie Collins, who did it twice in 1912.

The unfortunate thing was that Crawford, who now has a major league-leading 17 steals this season, four more than the Sox' Jacoby Ellsbury, didn't know he had tied the record.

If he had, ``I would have tried to break it,'' he said.

``I found that out late,'' added Crawford, who went 4 for 4 with an RBI. ``I wish I had known during the game. I probably would have broken it if I knew. I'd have definitely tried.

``I didn't even try. I don't know if that will ever happen again.''

Crawford, who has now stolen 19 consecutive bases, always has been physically gifted and gradually has built himself into a very good player. His speed is obvious. His ability to play the outfield is top-shelf. He can be a good hitter, but one of the reasons Crawford's complete game has not come together is because he's been too erratic at the plate. He was never that patient, but as he's growing into his prime, he's learned to be more selective. Stealing bases, though, has never been a problem.

``When I get a good jump, I know I can make it,'' said Crawford. ``I got good jumps and I went. I try to take advantage of the situation and pick my spots, and today I found some spots where I thought I could make something happen and get our team in a position to score runs.''

Crawford doesn't watch a lot of video. He keeps a mental picture of pitchers. He also takes tips from coaches about pitchers' moves and then determines when he thinks he can seize the moment.

``When I see a high leg kick, I go,'' said Crawford. ``I do it to start something. Maybe it ignites a rally. That's the reason I do it.''

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon feels by running the Rays can create a lot more than just a scoring situation. He feels they can affect an opposing team's thinking. Maddon thinks Crawford can get into a pitcher's head, maybe even change the pitch selection, perhaps deterring him from throwing something soft and causing him to groove a fastball.

Crawford had it fixed in his mind that he was going to steal off Penny. In the first inning with one out, Crawford drew a walk and then stole second, and a throwing error by Varitek advanced him to third. He scored on Carlos Pena's double.

In the third, Crawford singled to short and stole second with Pena batting, but Pena struck out to end the inning.

In the fifth, Crawford singled to right and with Evan Longoria up he stole second. After Longoria struck out and Pena popped to second, Crawford stole third with Pat Burrell up. But Burrell whiffed to end the inning.

In the seventh, Crawford singled again with one out. He stole second again with Longoria batting, then advanced to third on Longoria's single. When Delcarmen hit Pena and Burrell with pitches, Crawford scored.

As if five steals weren't enough, Crawford got an infield single in the eighth, driving in a run, then stole second, his sixth swipe of the day. Earlier in the inning it was Jason Bartlett's steal of third that enabled the Rays to score that insurance run on Crawford's hit.

Crawford's running game obviously hinges on whether he can reach base, and over his last 12 games he's hit .435 with 10 walks. The Rays now lead the majors with 40 steals and are 40 for 46 (87 percent) on the basepaths this season.

``I'll be soaking in cold water tonight,'' said Crawford. ``I'll feel it later, but that's the kind of soreness you want. When something like this happens, that soreness feels good. It was a great day and you don't forget something like this. Who knows if it can happen again. The situations were right. I hate getting caught, so I pick my situations where I know I can make it.''

The past two weeks have been extraordinary time for base stealers. After Ellsbury stole home against the Yankees, Dexter Fowler swiped five bases for Colorado against the Padres. Then Crawford one-upped everyone.

Did Crawford think about stealing home, as he has in the past against Boston?

``I wanted to, but the pitcher was pitching from the stretch so that made it impossible,'' he said.

You can bet that unless the Red Sox get this situation straightened out, other teams are going to run, too. The Sox stress trying to stop the running game, but it was hard to stop Crawford, a four-time AL stolen base champion.

Ramirez probably paid the most attention to him, but once he started his delivery, Crawford had time to get to second, though his final steal was probably his most difficult.

``It feels good for a base stealer to be able to get that many,'' said Crawford. ``The biggest thing is to get on base, and once you do, if you can get into scoring position for a guy like Longoria or Carlos, with the way they swing the bat, it's going to make us a tougher team to beat. We're trying to crank this up again and get our team back on track. Winning this series and gaining some confidence has to help us.''

He then repeated his only regret: ``I wish I had known about the record.''

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 4, 2009

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