BOSTON — For weeks, Carl Crawford watched. For what seemed like eternity, he waited.
The longest tenured Ray sat out after surgery on his right hand for most of the last two months of the regular season, including some of the most important games in club history.
"I thought my season was over," he said.
Crawford said he thought back to those humbling moments Tuesday, as he put together a historic performance in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series. Crawford went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two singles, a triple and two RBIs against the Red Sox, putting the Rays one win from the World Series. He scored three runs and stole two bases.
Simply put, the two-time All-Star did it all. And in doing so, his five hits tied an ALCS record.
"I can't explain to you guys how good it just feels to be back in the lineup — just to be playing baseball," Crawford said. "To have that taken away from you in a blink of an eye, it really does something to you, and it makes you appreciate it more when you come back."
Considering the doctors told Crawford he wouldn't be back until the World Series, considering Crawford had to play instructional league games to convince the Rays he was ready ahead of schedule, this night was especially sweet. Crawford, who was moved to the fifth spot in the batting order from the No. 2 hole after returning from surgery to repair a tendon problem in his right middle finger, has gotten into a comfort zone in the middle, where he feels "less pressure."
Manager Joe Maddon said he thought to himself how special it was for Crawford to finally have his night. "He has grinded through some pretty difficult moments, and right now he's playing as well as he played all year," Maddon said.
Outfielder Rocco Baldelli, in the Rays organization since 2000, has been through those tough times, too, and marveled at how well the 26-year-old Crawford has battled through the first serious injury of his career and "stepped in like he was never gone."
"I've seen a lot of things where I've heard, 'That's the first time it's ever happened in baseball,' " Baldelli said. "He does stuff like that pretty often. He's so talented. When he does stuff like that, it's not crazy to us, but very impressive."