Crawford taking thievery to new level
Speedster ties modern-day record with six steals vs. Boston
ST. PETERSBURG -- After Carl Crawford stole the show -- literally -- in the series finale against the Red Sox on Sunday, manager Joe Maddon was asked if, other than the speedy left fielder, anybody else on his club has a green light every time he reaches base.
With that, Tampa Bay's skipper looked up, grinned and said, "There's only a few red lights."
There were no red lights in front of Crawford on Sunday.
The speedy outfielder got on base each of the five times he came up to bat -- notching four hits while scoring two runs -- and swiped six bases to tie the modern-day Major League record.
Thanks to additional steals by Michel Hernandez -- the first of his career -- and Jason Bartlett, the Rays attained a franchise record by compiling eight swipes in one game and now easily lead the Major Leagues with 40 this season.
Tampa Bay is the second team to steal eight bases in a game this season -- the Rockies did it on April 27, against the Padres -- but the first American League team to do it in 11 years.
"There's always a threat that you may make an out on the base, but it's been my experience that even though you may on occasion, it's the attitude that begins to permeate this aggressive nature of the group that matters in the entire game," Maddon said.
"Our goal is to steal at least 80 percent of the time. We talked about that in Spring Training."
The six stolen bases made Crawford the fourth player since 1900 to accomplish the feat -- with Eddie Collins doing it twice in 1912 for the Philadelphia Athletics.
The last player to do it was Eric Young for the Rockies on June 30, 1996.
"That's a nice feeling," Crawford said. "I'm glad to be in the company of them."
Crawford -- who had set the previous franchise record with four steals in a game on May 24, 2006, at Toronto -- now has 318 career steals in 382 attempts, a success rate of 83.2 percent. With that percentage -- which requires a minimum of 200 steals -- the 27-year-old is fifth all-time and second among active players (behind the Mets' Carlos Beltran, at 87.9 percent) and second in AL history (trailing only Willie Wilson's 83.3 percent).
By the time Sunday's 5-3 win was over, Crawford had a Major League-leading 17 steals on the year -- the earliest he's ever put up that number in a season. He also has a streak of 19 stolen bases without being caught dating back to last season. His previous career high was 18, set from July 11 to Aug 18, 2003.
"This year I've been trying to put pressure on [opposing teams]," said Crawford, who added that he definitely would have tried to swipe another bag if he knew he was tied for the record. "Last year was a little difficult for me [because of injuries]. But this year I definitely want that threat to kind of change the game a little bit."
Every time he stepped to the batter's box on Sunday, Crawford changed the game against the Red Sox.
In the first inning, he drew a walk, stole second and advanced to third when the throw from catcher Jason Varitek landed in center field. In the bottom of the third, Crawford singled and stole second, and in the fifth, he did the same thing and added a swipe of third as well.
He then singled and stole second base once again in the seventh to tie the record.
"Crawford had a phenomenal day on the bases," Varitek said. "The first one, he had a terrible jump. I just threw it away. I made a real bad throw on that one. Some of the other ones, I made good throws, and some other ones, I didn't get the ball out. It was a combination of both. Later I made some decent throws, but there's not much you can do about it.
"He's good. He's got the speed to do things like that."
After getting the record, the native of Houston made perhaps the most important play of the game -- something that can't really be read off a box score.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth and the Rays nursing an uncomfortable one-run lead, Bartlett stole third base. Then Crawford's speed allowed him to beat a little nibbler to shortstop, scoring Bartlett, giving Tampa Bay some insurance and Troy Percival a more comfortable save in the ninth.
"You know what, Crawford -- the best way [to stop him] is to keep him off base," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Two of the throws, we had [starter Brad] Penny at 1.28 [seconds] and Jason at 1.9. We can't go faster than that. He outran it.
"He had a spectacular day, but it looks worse on our end because there's times we elect not to defend the stolen base [of third] with two outs. I don't think it puts us in a better place to stop them from scoring. At the moment, to throw him out, you have to be perfect."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Ian Browne contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.