Notes: Crawford pulls off triple ploy
Speedster says the key to three begins at home plate
ST. PETERSBURG -- "Three Dog" is baseball's triple king.
Carl Crawford might not lead the American League in triples right now -- Detroit's Curtis Granderson has 13 and Crawford has eight -- but rest assured, Crawford will be right up there at the end of the season. He is the man when it comes to rounding second and heading to third to claim a three-bagger.
"As far as I've ever seen, he is [the best at hitting triples]," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Most of the balls he hits, for the normal guy, is a double. But he's thinking triple from the moment he leaves the batter's box. And he has the speed to do it. ... It's a speed thing as much as anything. He just knows if he hits a ball in the right spot, it's a triple, not a double. His first thought is triple, whereas most guys' first thought is double."
Crawford has 73 career triples, the ninth most by any player before the age of 26 (since 1900). Since the start of the 2003 season, Crawford's 67 triples are 19 more than any other Major Leaguer; Jose Reyes of the Mets is next at 48.
Crawford said the key to him for hitting a triple is quickly making up his mind.
"A triple is made right when you hit it," Crawford said. "As soon as you hit it, you have to take off hard. A lot of guys, they hit it and don't start running hard, they kind of wait to see if it's a sure triple. But me, whenever I hit a ball into a gap, I take off right out of the box. I don't have to speed up at a certain time."
A unique feature of Crawford's triples is the action he takes rounding second base when he always seems to be struggling to keep his balance, resulting in a swim move while trying to remain upright.
"That's just something that keeps me balanced so I don't have to make a wide turn, because my turns are so sharp that I'm trying to get the right angle and keep my balance," Crawford said. "When you see guys rounding first and they're taking a wide turn to second and they're taking another wide turn to third, I like to make mine a straight line."
Asked if he likes being the triple king, Crawford offers a little chuckle.
"It's always good to be the kind of something," Crawford said. "I don't know if I'm the triple king yet."
Going deep: The Rays entered Sunday's action with 89 home runs, which rank second in the American League behind the Rangers (93) and fourth in the Major Leagues. The team is just one shy of its most ever after 72 games (90 in 2006). Included in the mix of home runs has been a club-record 27 during Interleague Play, the most in the American League this season and second most in the Major Leagues.
Fueling the Rays' home run parade is Carlos Pena, who is tied with Gary Sheffield for third in the American League with 17; Pena's seven home runs in June are tied for second in the AL behind the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who has nine.
Pena is tied with Greg Vaughn for the second-most home runs in team history after 72 games; Jose Canseco set the standard with 27 in 1999.
Pena's 17 home runs match Greg Norton (2006) for the most in a season by a Rays non-rostered player. He is attempting to become the 13th non-roster invitee since 1993 to hit 20-plus home runs. The last two were Jose Guillen (Reds and A's) and Craig Monroe (Tigers) in 2003.
Up next: The Rays begin a four-game series against the White Sox on Monday night in a 7:10 ET contest at Tropicana Field. Left-hander J.P. Howell will start for the White Sox and will be opposed by left-hander John Danks.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.