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Crawford's winning shot hurts so good
The All-Star with the bum wrist rips a walkoff blast to cap a Rays rally.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published July 31, 2007
A happy -- and startled -- Carl Crawford heads into a joyful pack of Rays after hitting an opposite-field home run in the 11th.
[Dirk Shadd | Times]
[Dirk Shadd | Times]
Dan Wheeler makes his debut in his return to the Devil Rays, pitching 1 1/3 solid innings of relief, including a perfect eighth.
ST. PETERSBURG - The 3-and-1 pitch came over the plate, and Carl Crawford swung, and it hurt.
Crawford, who was out of the starting lineup Monday for the third straight game with a sprained right wrist, took his first swings in the batting cage since Friday. An MRI earlier in the day offered good news, but Crawford knew the wrist was far from healthy, especially after the All-Star leftfielder found himself in the batter's box fouling Brian Wolfe's fastball straight back. The next pitch was near the same spot, a full-count fastball that surely would have been strike three.
Crawford connected. And this pitch went opposite field over the left-centerfield fence for a walkoff home run, giving the Rays a 5-4 11-inning win over the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field on Monday night.
"It surprised me, too," Crawford said after getting mobbed at home plate following the Rays' seventh walkoff win. "I was just trying to get on base and let the guys behind me do the rest of the work. I definitely wasn't expecting that.
"That's the best feeling you're going to get," he added.
Crawford, who injured the wrist trying to make a diving catch Friday and said he will likely have to play through the pain for the remainder of the season, chose the most dramatic way to hit his seventh homer of the season after scoring the tying run in the ninth inning.
"I have not seen him hit the ball out there yet," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That ball was crushed. So I officially declare him well."
"He's a pro hitter," Wolfe said. "He's going to do his job, pain or not."
Crawford's heroics continued his success against the Blue Jays this season. He is hitting .357 (15-for-42) against Toronto, and four of his homers and seven of his AL-leading 33 steals have come against the Jays.
"He pretty much has hurt us all year," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's the last guy you want to see up there in that situation. He can beat you in so many ways."
The Rays (40-65) tied it at 4 after Greg Norton drew a one-out walk from Jays closer Jeremy Accardo and Crawford entered the game as a pinch-runner. Crawford stole second and moved to third on a flyout to right.
"Once he steals second, it puts my back against the wall to make pitches," Accardo said.
Pinch-hitter Josh Wilson then took Accardo's first pitch up the middle to score Crawford.
"I was just thinking to look for a fastball and take a hack at the first pitch, because either way if you get to that split (Accardo's split-finger fastball) you're probably not going to have the same outcome," Wilson said.
Five relievers combined to pitch 41/3 scoreless innings for the revamped Rays bullpen, the only blemish a seeing-eye run-scoring single past shortstop off newcomer Dan Wheeler in the seventh that gave Toronto a 4-2 lead.
Closer Al Reyes, the subject of trade talks as today's 4 p.m. deadline for nonwaiver deals approaches, worked out of a jam in the 10th after allowing a leadoff double to Lyle Overbay. And Scott Dohmann was impressive late, working out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the 11th by striking out Reed Johnson swinging on a 93-mph fastball and inducing Overbay into a flyout.
Starter Andy Sonnanstine had allowed two runs just four batters in but ended up allowing just four over 62/3 innings.
Two of the Rays' first four runs came on homers. Jonny Gomes' mammoth blast in the fifth hit off the message board in the second deck of leftfield and was estimated at 465 feet. B.J. Upton hit his fifth homer in 11 games in the eighth.
As for Crawford, there was little doubt he would return to the starting lineup tonight.
"You know I'll be playing after that," Crawford said.