Crawford has hit on something

Carl Crawford returns to a happy Red Sox dugout after scoring the first run of the game in the third inning. Carl Crawford returns to a happy Red Sox dugout after scoring the first run of the game in the third inning. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / August 7, 2011

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Carl Crawford said the fourth hit of the game was nice, but the first three meant more.

Those came off of Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who entered yesterday’s game with a 2.55 ERA and a league-best 16 wins.

“Whenever you can get three hits off a pitcher like Sabathia, you feel good about yourself,’’ Crawford said.

Sabathia is a lefthander, which makes hitting against him, for a lefthanded batter such as Crawford, more of a challenge. It also makes hits more rewarding.

Crawford’s three hits off Sabathia went to the opposite field, something Crawford has focused on since he’s returned from a stint on the disabled list.

“That’s part of trying to get your swing back right, trying to go the other way,’’ Crawford said July 24, a week after coming off the DL. “You want to have your opposite-field stroke down pat. It does ease your mind, knowing you can go to left and something good can happen.’’

That comment came after a win over the Mariners. It means a little more when the opposite-field hits contribute to a win over the rival Yankees, and when those hits come off their best pitcher.

“It’s against one of the tougher lefties in the league,’’ said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “If he wants to get hot, we’re a little different team. It gives a little different look.’’

Crawford’s double in the third inning was the Sox’ first hit, and he came around to score their first run.

In the fourth, he drove in a run and scored again as a part of a five-run inning. All the damage came off Sabathia.

“When you get wins against guys like that, you really try not to dissect it too much,’’ Crawford said. “You try to just take it.’’

Entering this series, Crawford had hit an anemic .125 (5 for 40) against the Yankees this season. In the past two days, he’s 6 for 8.

The big change? An approach that emphasizes opposite-field hitting.

“I’m trying to stay on the ball instead of trying to pull everything,’’ he said.

That approach can only benefit the Red Sox.

“Those were good swings,’’ Francona said. “You feel better when you’re rewarded for good swings. He starts banging the ball off the wall, he’s on base and making things happen, it’s good for everybody.’’

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