Crawford's season ends on sour note
Left fielder unable to make game-saving catch in ninth inning
BALTIMORE -- Carl Crawford's Wednesday night could not have been laden with more irony, disappointment or circularity.
It was a ball that just eluded the glove of a sliding Crawford in the ninth inning that plated the winning run for the Orioles, the team whose 4-3 victory was part one of two outcomes that eliminated the Red Sox from reaching the postseason.
With the game tied at 3 and the winning run on second base, Robert Andino hit a liner to left off Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon that Crawford charged. He went into a feet-first slide, keeping his glove low to the ground on the glove-side of his body, his right, but he couldn't snag it.
It was eerily similar to a play from two days earlier that Crawford also could not make, in a 6-3 loss to the O's.
"It was low, so I knew that I had to just try to slide," Crawford said of Wednesday's attempt. "I couldn't dive. I had to try to get up under it, and I wasn't able to. I had to try to make a sliding catch. I couldn't come up with it, though."
The ball stopped dead next to Crawford's glove. He sprung to his feet and fired home, but the throw was well off the mark -- he might not have had a chance to catch Nolan Reimold at the plate anyway -- and the Red Sox walked off in shock.
The question Crawford fielded repeatedly after the game was whether that play was one he should have made, the same question he fielded on Monday.
"If I should have got it, I would have caught it," Crawford said. "It was a tough play. I tried to do the best I could. It was real close. Man on second, big lead, he probably was going to score if I played it off the hop. I felt it tip my glove, so I knew it hit my glove at one point. I had to come in and try to make a play on it and just couldn't do it."
"I was hoping," manager Terry Francona said. "I thought he had a chance. He gave it the best chance he could. You ask the players to do the best they can, and he did. He didn't catch it. We'd still be playing [if he caught it], but that's the way the game is."
Within minutes, the Rays had defeated the Yankees, 8-7, and claimed the American League Wild Card. The broadcast of the Tampa Bay game was on in the Red Sox's clubhouse.
Crawford went 1-for-4 with a double, which could have scored a run in the eighth inning were it not for a Marco Scutaro baserunning mistake. Crawford ended his season with a .255 average.
The only Red Sox player who entered this season with expectations that were as high as those placed on Crawford was Adrian Gonzalez. Both players signed nine-figure deals with the Sox, but while Gonzalez flourished, Crawford got off to a rough start.
A dynamic, game-changing player when he's right, Crawford hit .155 in April. His 2011 average wound up 52 points lower than the clip he hit for a year ago.
When Crawford signed with Boston and left Tampa Bay, the only Major League team he had played for, he ostensibly did so with the belief that his best chance to get to the playoffs was with the large-market Sox, not the Rays.
It's the Rays, though, who are going to the playoffs, while the Red Sox are not. Their last game ended on a play Crawford just couldn't come up with, and his season ended on a sour note -- just as it began.
"It was a tough, rough season for me. I didn't play as well as I would like to play," Crawford said, "but hopefully next year I come back and play better.
"I don't think I've ever been a part of something like this. This is a devastating blow to us. We go down in history as one of the worst collapses ever."