ST. PETERSBURG — Blazing speed, spectacular defense and overall amazing athleticism are what Carl Crawford has been most known for during his nine seasons with the Rays — and what he'll be remembered for after he leaves.
But Crawford likes to flex his muscles, too, and he certainly did Thursday, hitting a pair of heavyweight two-run home runs to lead the Rays to their sixth straight win, 5-2 over the Indians.
"They don't really come that often, so I'm definitely excited about it when they do happen," Crawford said. "They all feel good."
Crawford homered in his first two at-bats, both on full-count pitches from Jake Westbrook and both deep to right — 438 feet in the first and 445 in the third, the second-longest of the season at Tropicana Field. Carlos Peña added an opposite-field homer in the third, his team-high 17th, and rookie starter Wade Davis overcame a rough beginning to snap his five-game losing streak.
"It's been a while," Davis said. "I forgot what it felt like to win."
It was a feel-good night overall before 16,892 at the Trop as the Rays (52-33) avoided a post Red Sox-sweep drop-off manager Joe Maddon was concerned about.
"It could've been," Crawford said, "but I think guys understand what's at stake right now. We have a chance to really get back to the top of the standings."
They stayed two games behind the first-place Yankees, who beat Seattle, and three ahead of the idle Red Sox.
As Davis' struggles dragged on, questions of a change mounted, especially with top prospect Jeremy Hellickson excelling at Triple-A Durham with an 11-2 record.
When Davis allowed two homers, one to leadoff man Michael Brantley, and three walks to the first nine batters, it looked to be another bad night. But he settled down in the second and worked through seven innings, making more use of his curve and slider and less of his fastball, though he needed a season-high 112 pitches (49 balls).
"There was more pitch-ability," Maddon said. "Not just going out there and trying to challenge guys on all counts. That's what had kind of gotten him in trouble."
Crawford made sure it didn't matter with his fifth career two-homer game. He has 10 for the season, eight shy of his 2006 career high, and continued a sizzling hot streak, which has produced a .435 average over his past 17 games.
"I've always felt he is a rare combination of speed and power in today's game," Maddon said. "He may not like to hear this, but he's kind of like a Rickey Henderson when it comes to that stuff. He's a really strong athlete. He runs strong. He plays defense in a strong way, and he's got this incredible power. And he showed it right there."
Crawford is putting together one of his best seasons, including an AL co-high 66 runs and a team-best .321 average, .378 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage with his first All-Star start coming Tuesday. If nothing else, it's an impressive printout to take into free agency.
"I'm happy for him in all those respects but mostly because he's doing well and he's a Ray," Maddon said. "And I want him to remain a Ray."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.