Crawford finally getting comfortable at the plate

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Crawford finally getting comfortable at the plate

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

DETROIT -- Asked if a .244 batting average ever felt so good, Carl Crawford smiled before replying.

Nah, he said. But I got to take what I can get right now.

In the last two games, Crawford has been taking more than his share. Thursday against the Tigers, he went 4-for-5 with two triples, two runs scored, and three RBI. In his last two games combined, he has gone 8-for-9 with two doubles, two triples, a home run, five runs scored, and five RBI, raising his average to .244, his high-water mark for the season.

We talked about it, said manager Terry Francona. We said we were going to enjoy it. Its been two days in a row where its four hits, and theyre good swings. They werent at pitches out of the strike zone. Hes pulling balls in the gap. Using his legs. It was a matter of time but its certainly nice to see.

In the past four games, Crawford has gone 10-for-16 (.625) with eight runs scored, six RBI, two doubles, two triples, two home runs, two walks, one strikeout and one stolen base. In that time he has raised his average 35 points (from .209), his on-base percentage 34 points (from .243 to .277), and his slugging percentage 91 points (from .277 to .368).

Its starting to be fun for him.

It feels real good just to be able to hit the ball and play like yourself, he said. I havent felt that way in a long time. So to have that feeling back for a few days feels great.

It feels great to be winning. The teams hitting. Everybodys playing well and contributing. Everybody's swinging the bats well. We just hope we can keep that going.

Just feeling a little bit more comfortable at the plate, trying to really get my pitch to hit and not missing it when I do get a chance to drive the ball.

Being more comfortable, more relaxed at the plate makes a big difference for a hitter.

I dont disagree with that, Francona said. I think its hard when youre struggling. Its like when we were 2-11 or 2-10, we talked about it all the time: You got to be strong enough to look up there and realize that well straighten this out. But it takes some patience and all of a sudden you get in that mode and you want to go 3-for-1 as a hitter. It doesnt work.

But these last couple of days, theyll do him a world of good. Regardless of what youre hitting, if you feel like youre going in one direction, its better. And he certainly feels that way. The weathers warmed up somewhat and I think that helps him. Hes got his legs under him. You can see the swings hes taking. Theyre good swings. But I think now he can go out and play.

Two of Crawfords four hits Thursday were triples. He now has eight two-triple games, the last on July 26, 2008, while with the Rays against the Royals. Its ironic he would add to that count on Thursday, because he was a triple shy of the cycle when he went 4-for-4 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

I guess, a day late, said Crawford.

But for the Sox, who moved into a first-place tie with the Yankees, who were off Thursday, its right on time.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Sox may have finally found their everyday third baseman for the postseason

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Sox may have finally found their everyday third baseman for the postseason

BOSTON — As has been well-documented, the Red Sox have tried any number of solutions at third base this season, with eight different players getting starts at the position.

Travis Shaw has the most starts of anyone, with 99. But with three games left in the season, it's become apparent that Brock Holt is being viewed as the likely starter in the post-season.

Holt started all three games in the recent series in New York and was the starter Friday night against Toronto, too.

"You look at the consistent quality to the at-bats," said John Farrell, "and they've been there for him. That's not to say the other guys aren't important to us. But this is the time of year where you're looking to put the best, current lineup on the field and his versatility has shown up a number of ways. He's a confident defender at third base and his skill set is a little bit different from the other guys.

"So against righthanded pitching, that could be the guy we're going with."

Holt came into Friday hitting .319 (22-for-69) in the last 24 games.

Shaw, meanwhile, has been streaky to a fault. In the second half of the season, Shaw has posted a slash line of .195/.260/.362.

"We've seen (the streakiness both ways) in short spurts," Farrell said. "He does have the ability to carry us. But we're trying to get there and we're at a point in the year where every game is meaningful. That's not to say you turn your back on what he did earlier in the season. But we're looking for sparks somewhere."

What's more, Farrell had Holt hitting second in the lineup, in an effort to produce more offense. The Sox were limited to just eight runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium, and over the last 11 games, scored more than five runs just once.

Holt hit second, with Xander Bogaerts dropped to sixth.

"This is to create a little bit of a spark for us offensively," explained Farrell. "We've been grinding a little bit. And also, (we want) to create a little more (left-right) balance up and down the lineup."

TIME TO PLAY

As the final few regular season games of his career wind down, David Ortiz acknowledged that it's becoming increasing difficult to focus on the games with all the tributes and ceremonies going on.

In the final 11 days of the season, Ortiz will have had five pre-game ceremonies held in his honor -- and it would have been six had not Ortiz asked the Tampa Bay Rays to cancel the ceremony they had planned in the aftermath of the death that morning of pitcher Jose Fernandez.

On Thursday night, Ortiz has his family on the field for a pre-game celebration hosted by the New York Yankees.

Minutes later, he had to step in to the batter's box against CC Sabathia. Sometimes, it's hard to flip that switch and be emotionally ready to compete.

"I'm not going to lie to you -- it has (gotten harder)," said Ortiz. "We're already in the playoffs, so for the next three days, I don't really have to worry about it. But the best thing about it is that once we get into the playoffs, there's not going to be all these distractions.

"I like to mentally focus when we play, especially when I'm playing for a reason. We work extremely hard during the regular season to get into the playoffs and once we get there, I don't want to blow that off. It's not easy to (do all the ceremonies) and play baseball at the same time. It can be a distraction."

Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: Porcello goes for win No. 23

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Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: Porcello goes for win No. 23

The A.L. East-champion Red Sox, still fighting for playoff position, field their usual lineup as they open David Ortiz's final regular-season series tonight (7:10) against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox (92-67) are two games behind the Texas Rangers (94-65) in the race for the best record in the A.L., with the Cleveland Indians (91-67) a half-game behind Boston.

Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.11 ERA), the likely Game 1 starter in the ALDS, will try to add to his Cy Young Award resume tonight. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.53).

The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles (both 87-72) are tied for the A.L. wild-card lead with the Detroit Tigers (85-73) 1 1/2 games back.

It’s the final regular season series for Oritz, with ceremonies planned to honor the retiring Red Sox DH prior to each of the final three game this weekend. 

The lineups:

RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Brock Holt 3B

Mookie Betts RF

David Ortiz DH

Hanely Ramirez 1B

Xander Bogaerts SS

Jackie Bradley CF

Sandy Leon C

Andrew Benintendi LF

Rick Porcello P

 

BLUE JAYS

Eziquiel Carrera LF

Josh Donaldson 3B

Edwin Encarnacion DH

Jose Bautista RF

Russell Martin C

Troy Tulowitzki SS

Justin Smoak 1B

Kevin Pillar CF

Devon Travis 2B

Marco Estrada RHP