Crawford jets to inside-the park homer
Rays' left fielder accomplishes rare feat in Chicago
CHICAGO -- Carl Crawford motored around second base, took one final glance toward the center-field wall and never saw the ball again.
Instead, the Rays' speedy outfielder hunkered down after lofting a fly ball to the deepest part of U.S. Cellular Field, turned on the jets and cruised into home plate standing up. By the time he crossed the dish, the ball was nowhere near the plate and Crawford had tallied just the third inside-the-park home run in U.S. Cellular Field history, a ballpark that has been in existence for 19 seasons.
Crawford, arguably the fastest runner in the Major Leagues, had just provided the most exciting moment of the night for the Rays, who lost, 4-3, to the White Sox on Monday.
"I just kept running and saw [third-base coach Tom] Foley was waving me," said Crawford, who leads the Major Leagues in stolen bases with 46. "I just tried to run as fast as I could to get there. I saw it bounce off the wall. I knew I had better turn on the speed a little bit."
The play began when Crawford drove a deep fly to center field off White Sox starter Gavin Floyd with the Rays trailing, 4-1, in the fourth inning. Chicago center fielder Scott Podsednik tracked the ball toward the warning track and leaped to make the catch, but the ball bounced off the wall. Thinking the ball had cleared the wall, Podsednik stared into the stands as the ball ricocheted to the grass. Right fielder Jermaine Dye sprinted over to help, but by that time, Crawford was on his way to scoring easily.
"I thought it was a homer when he hit it -- over the wall," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Then when I saw Podsednik going after it, I said, 'Whoa.' I thought he might catch it because of how fast he is. Then when I saw the rebound, I felt pretty good about it at that point because it was far enough away from them both that Craw was going to be able to do that."
Podsednik admitted afterward to misjudging the flight of the baseball.
"I misplayed it," Podsednik said. "I thought the ball went over the fence. I looked back, and Jermaine came running for it. Crawford can really run, so he was able to motor all the way around."
It was the first inside-the-park home run in nine years at U.S. Cellular Field. Chris Singleton recorded the last one for the White Sox on Sept. 29, 2000, against the Royals. The only other inside-the-park homer there occurred on June 21, 1995, when the Mariners' Marc Newfield accomplished the feat.
"Oh, yeah?" Crawford said when informed that he was just the third man to turn the trick at U.S. Cellular Field. "Well, you know, it feels good to get on those kinds of lists any time you can."
Crawford had registered inside-the-park home runs twice before, on April 6, 2005, against the Blue Jays and again on April 13, 2007, against the Twins.
Even though the play on Monday went against his team, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was struck by the speed of Crawford.
"It's amazing," Guillen said. "I think I enjoyed that. I enjoy seeing that guy run. It was amazing seeing how he ran around the bases in no time."
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.