Crawford comes through in walk-off win
Off bench, outfielder hits 11th-inning homer to lift Rays vs. Jays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carl Crawford resembled a wounded duck at the plate leading off in the bottom of the 11th inning. Damaged goods for Blue Jays pitcher Brian Wolfe to exploit and easily dispatch with three strikes.
Everybody at Tropicana Field knew Crawford couldn't swing the bat because of a sore right wrist that had prevented him from starting a game since Friday night.
So when the count reached 3-2, Wolfe delivered a strike. Crawford swung and connected, sending a drive that cleared the wall in left-center field for a walk-off homer to give the Devil Rays a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays.
When Crawford stepped into the box, Wolfe understood the situation.
"Yeah, we were aware of that going in," Wolfe said. "That's why the first pitch, I saw him square to bunt and I figured that was going to be his approach. Then, after that, he looked like he got comfortable at the plate. He's a professional hitter. He's going to go up there whether he's in pain or not and do his job."
Earlier in the day, Crawford had an MRI on his injured wrist to rule out any serious injury, which it did. Knowing he wasn't seriously injured gave Crawford peace of mind, but did nothing to lesson the pain. Pain he felt when he swung at a 3-1 pitch.
"Oh, it didn't feel good," Crawford said. "I didn't get a chance to loosen my wrist, I didn't know I was going to be hitting today. I didn't have a chance to loosen up. I took a hack and I missed it, kind of hurt a little bit."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who had been ejected in the eighth inning by third-base umpire Tim Welke, watched the game from the visiting clubhouse.
"I was watching on TV and that 3-1 swing, he looked like he was flinching, you know?" Gibbons said.
With the count at 3-2, Crawford had one thought in mind.
"I didn't want to strike out," he said.
Wolfe wanted to go inside with a cutter.
"And I left the ball out over the plate where he can use his power to hit it out," Wolfe said.
Crawford swung at the pitch and produced the blow that gave the Rays a two-game winning streak.
"That pitch would have been strike three if I would have taken it," Crawford said. "I was just trying to put the ball in play. I didn't know [it was gone]. I just watched [Blue Jays center fielder] Vernon Wells. Once I saw his reaction I knew it was a home run."
Crawford rounded the bases and got mobbed at home by his teammates.
"That ball was crushed," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "So I officially declare him well."
Crawford is hitting .357 with four home runs in 10 games against the Blue Jays this season. Gibbons couldn't give the Rays' left fielder enough accolades.
"He kills us, he kills us," Gibbons said. "He's one of the best players in the league for a reason. He's a guy you'd love to have, because he can beat you in so many ways. He's one of the most dangerous players in the league. He's got power. He's a good hitter. He uses the whole field when he hits. He can run you out of the ballpark. He's always worn us out. That's why you liked this game. He wasn't even in it tonight at the start."
Crawford's home run was his first since June 5 at Toronto off Roy Halladay, and it gave the Rays their seventh walk-off victory of the season. But the win had more heroes than Crawford, most notably the team's re-configured bullpen.
Dan Wheeler gave up an RBI single and a walk to the first two hitters he faced when he relieved starter Andy Sonnanstine. Then the Rays' newest acquisition settled in to retire the final four hitters he faced.
Casey Fossum, Grant Balfour, Al Reyes, and Scott Dohmann followed Wheeler and did not allow a run.
Dohmann ran into trouble in the 11th when the Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out.
"It's game on now. You make your own bed, you have to sleep in it," Dohmann said. "And it got thick right there, sink or swim. You've got to pound the zone, hopefully they roll one over and you get a double-play."
Dohmann didn't get the double play, but he struck out Reed Johnson for the second out and then got Lyle Overbay to fly out to Crawford in left to end the inning.
"Bullpen did a great job," Maddon said. "Balfour really picked us up there. Great job by Reyes; Dohmann hung tough at the end."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.