Thinking three helps Crawford to rare feat

Published September 25, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Carl Crawford didn't get caught up in theories about how the game has changed or reasons why he accomplished a feat no player has in 76 years.

With his sixth-inning triple, his AL-leading 15th, in Sunday's 11-4 win over New York, the 25-year-old became the first player since 1930 to have at least three consecutive seasons of 15 or more triples.

Asked why he thought it has been so long since a player accomplished the feat, Crawford had no answers.

"I have no clue, but I was happy I was able to do it," Crawford said. "There are fast guys in the game who can hit, so I have no clue why guys haven't done it. That's not a stat that you go out and try to do every year. That's a stat that just happens."

Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon had his own theory: Crawford is a unique player with rare speed and forethought that every ball he hits could be for three bases.

"Whenever he hits the ball, whether it's down the line or in the gap, he's thinking three," Maddon said. "We want all our players to think when they hit a single, I want them thinking double. When they hit a double, I want them to think triple. He breaks triple. He wants triple. He gets triple."

Case in point Sunday, when Crawford hit Mike Myers' delivery to the right-centerfield gap. Rightfielder Bobby Abreu seemed to take a bad angle on the ball and it skipped into the gap. Crawford was thinking triple the whole time.

STOKES GETS NO. 1: Brian Stokes has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his first three Rays starts, and Sunday he was rewarded with his first major-league win.

Stokes received the lineup card as a memento, as well as a beer bath from teammates, the result of which was made obvious by the wet spot on the carpet near his locker.

"It was pretty good, a dream come true," Stokes said. "I never thought it would come against those guys. They're a good hitting team."

Stokes, who allowed two runs on seven hits over 51/3 innings, dodged two bases-loaded jams.

"I felt like I was making some good pitches," he said. "They just hit some ground balls through the holes and I was able to maintain consistency. I tried to stay aggressive and go after them, and it worked out for me."

Maddon said that once Stokes, who missed the 2004 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, regains his curveball to go with his fastball and changeup, he will become a formidable starter.

"I think his success, as we go along, is going to be dependent on the redevelopment of his curveball to go with his other two well-above-average pitches," Maddon said

JACK'S BACK: Rays reliever Edwin Jackson made his first appearance since he was hit in the head by a batted ball last weekend. Jackson pitched the final two innings, allowing one run on two hits. Jackson said he's no longer having headaches or any other symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

DAVID VS. GOLIATH: The Rays' 8-0 win over the Yankees on Saturday night marked the first time in 63 years a team with the worst record in the majors shut out a team with the majors' best by eight or more runs (May 1 or later). On Aug. 14, 1943, the Giants beat the Cardinals 8-0.

MISCELLANY: Rays starting pitchers have a 3.26 ERA in the first three games of this series. ... The six-run fourth was their highest-scoring inning since a 10-run fifth July 22 in Baltimore. ... Of Ty Wigginton's 72 RBIs, 27 have tied the score or put the Rays ahead. ... Second baseman Jorge Cantu is still listed as day to day but missed his third straight game with a fever. ... A security guard felt chest pressure, delaying the game in the bottom of the fourth. He was treated at the Trop first-aid center and released. ... Tonight's final home game is "Shirts Off Our Back Night." For a $2 charity donation, fans receive a scratch-off card and have the chance to win a game-worn Rays jersey and other prizes.

Three times three

With his sixth-inning triple Sunday, Carl Crawford became the first player in 76 years to have 15 or more triples in three straight seasons. Only three other players have accomplished the feat. They are all Hall of Famers.

Name Team No. Years/Age*

Paul Waner Pittsburgh 5 1926-30/25

Earle Combs NY (AL) 4 1927-30/30

Charlie Gehringer Detroit 3 1928-30/27

Carl Crawford Tampa Bay 3 2004-06/25

*Age in third 15-triple season.