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Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford hits home run on 28th birthday

ST. PETERSBURG — LF Carl Crawford said that with his family and friends out of town, he had yet to receive any birthday gifts Wednesday, when he turned 28.

But in the third inning against Boston, Crawford fulfilled one of his birthday wishes, hitting a two-run homer. It was the third time in his career he has homered on his birthday (also in 2004 and 2007).

"That's what everybody wishes for on your birthday when you've got to play a game," Crawford said. "It never really happens, but for it to happen, I'm definitely excited about it."

His onfield accomplishments before turning 28 were impressive. Only Ty Cobb among modern-era players had more triples (90) and steals (353), and only Cobb and Cesar Cedeno surpassed Crawford's total of hits (1,244) and steals. Crawford has the seventh-most steals and 12th-most triples since 1900 (and most since Stan Musial in 1941-48) and the 23rd-most hits since 1950.

Manager Joe Maddon said Crawford's approach at the plate has been consistently good, with his homer going to left-center being a good sign.

"C.C., when he's hitting (opposite-field) gap homers like that, he's really locked in," he said. "Once it left the bat, you knew it was gone. He hit it that well."

Lesson learned: Maddon said the Rays would learn from the "frustrating" blunder Tuesday that led to an errant Boston throw hitting an equipment bag left on the ground in the bullpen area and costing them a run.

Maddon said umpires — specifically Joe West — have told the Rays to move the bag in previous games at Tropicana Field, and they usually didn't follow through. Not anymore.

Wednesday, the Rays made sure there was no issue. RHP Dan Wheeler said they didn't even bring the bags out.

IN THE SWING: DH Pat Burrell returned to the lineup after not starting for two straight games. Maddon said he liked a lineup with right-handed hitters due to Red Sox RHP Brad Penny's reverse splits (righties hit .316 against him, lefties .268). Burrell responded with a homer.

"He did some really good work the past couple days, and I believe he's going to finish very strongly," Maddon said. "I also believe for us to get to the playoffs and the World Series, he's got to be a big part of that."

WELCOME BACK: Former Ray Rocco Baldelli doesn't get overly excited about any occasion, but he looked forward to playing at the Trop again, this time as a visitor with Boston.

Baldelli was on the DL the first time the Sox came to the Trop this season, but he started in rightfield Wednesday and hit seventh, going 0-for-3. He received a surprisingly muted reaction from fans.

DRAFT BREEZE: Fourth-round draft pick Luke Bailey, a catcher from Troup County High in LaGrange, Ga., was at the Trop for a visit and talks as the Aug. 17 signing deadline nears. The Rays have yet to sign any of their top five picks but are continuing discussions.

MINOR MATTERS: RHP Joe Nelson had a strong first performance for Triple-A Durham on Tuesday, with two shutout innings, striking out four and giving up two hits. … C Shawn Riggans, also in Durham, is day-to-day with a rib cage injury.

TV time: Maddon will be featured in an MLB Network show on road trips airing at 9 tonight. … The CBS Evening News piece on blind Rays Spanish radio broadcaster Enrique Olio scheduled to air Wednesday was pushed back to next week.

miscellany: The Rays have won 14 of their past 16 vs. Boston at home and have beaten the Sox 13 times here since the beginning of 2008, their most vs. any opponent. … LHP J.P. Howell has converted 10 straight save opportunities, with 26 of his past 28 appearances scoreless.

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Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford hits home run on 28th birthday 08/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009 7:24am]
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