Big-money free agent Carl Crawford is famously off to a miserable start with the Red Sox. He's batting .212. He has a a .249 on-base percentage. He's sitting on all of one home run. Crawford was expected to contribute across the board, but instead he's been a disappointment in nearly every facet of the game, and every analyst on the planet has tried to figure out what's wrong.
But despite all of Crawford's struggles, a funny thing has happened. Back on May 1, in a game against the Mariners, Crawford came up in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on third and drove him home with a single. On May 9, in a game against the Twins, Crawford came up in the bottom of the 11th with the winning run on first and drove him home with a double. And on Thursday, May 19, in a game against the Tigers, Crawford came up in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on third and drove him home with a line drive over the center fielder's head.
Carl Crawford has delivered three walk-off hits in 19 days for a Red Sox team that's really turned things around since the beginning of the year. And by coming up with these hits, he's earned himself a longer leash from a fanatical fan base. If Crawford had his numbers without the walk-offs, you have to figure he could be Public Enemy #1. But because he's come up clutch three times in three weeks, he's won some fans and earned some forgiveness for his slow start.
There was, of course, a whole baseball game Thursday prior to Crawford's winning single. It featured a promising pitchers duel, with Justin Verlander going against Josh Beckett. Nobody would throw a no-hitter, but the score remained close and low, just as expected, with Boston up 3-1 going into the eighth, even though Beckett had to depart after six innings and 83 pitches with neck stiffness.
However, the eighth inning very quickly blew up in setup man Daniel Bard's face. Brennan Boesch led off with a solo home run. Miguel Cabrera immediately followed with a solo home run. I'll let Matt Sussman tell you everything:
Daniel "No Holds" Bard.
Suddenly the game was tied, and it was still tied in the top of the ninth when Jonathan Papelbon came on and got himself in trouble. Papelbon loaded the bases with only one out and had to face the same two guys who had homered in just the previous inning. However, he struck out Boesch and then he struck out Cabrera, too, on a high fastball to send the game to the bottom of the ninth.
And that's where it would end. Reliever Al Alburquerque one-upped Papelbon by loading the bases with nobody out, and though he survived a Jed Lowrie flare into shallow left when Andy Dirks threw a perfect strike home for the routine 7-2 fielder's choice, Crawford came up next and drove the ball well over center fielder Austin Jackson's head. It went in the books as a single, and Boston improved to 23-20.
With their win, the Red Sox completed an adorable little two-game sweep.