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Crawford's home runs are rare but dramatic

Carl Crawford has only two home runs this season, but at least he makes them count.

Crawford hit a three-run walkoff home run in the ninth inning opening night to beat the Red Sox and a three-run walkoff homer in the ninth Friday to beat the White Sox.

"There ain't no trick to it," Crawford said, "I'm just trying to get a good swing. I was hoping it was gone. I was saying "Go' the whole time, and it got out. So I'll take that."

After the opening night dramatics, Crawford went 303 at-bats before hitting another home run. "I thought that probably was going to be my last one. But I got another one here, so I'm happy," Crawford said. "I didn't know when that next one was going to come."

The Rays have hit 11 walkoff homers in their history. Crawford and John Flaherty are the only ones with two.

"C.C. only hits walkoff home runs," manager Lou Piniella said.

REST TIME: With Joe Kennedy set to come back as some other starters appear to be tiring, the Rays will use a six-man rotation for the final week before the All-Star break.

Their main concern appears to be Jeremi Gonzalez, who has allowed 10 runs and pitched only 10 innings in his past two starts after going 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA in his first eight, allowing three runs or fewer seven times.

"Quite frankly, I think we're starting to see some of the ramifications from bringing him back short on a couple occasions," pitching coach Chris Bosio said. "We're trying to be cautious with him. He admitted today he's a little tired. So I think a couple (extra) days will do him good.

"He's not the same guy. He's lost a couple miles an hour, and location-wise he's trying to do too much. And he's not hitting his spots."

Under the revamped rotation, Gonzalez and Victor Zambrano will get seven days' rest and not pitch again until Friday and Saturday, respectively, when Piniella makes his return to Seattle. In the three-game series at Oakland that starts Tuesday, the Rays plan to use Rob Bell, Kennedy (who was sharp in his second rehab start Friday, allowing six hits and one earned run in 6 innings for Triple-A Durham, striking out four with no walks) and Jorge Sosa. Gonzalez, Zambrano and Jason Standridge will face the Mariners.

"This will give all of our pitchers a little breather," Piniella said.

After the three-day break, the Rays will go back to a five-man rotation, with Bell or Sosa likely going to the bullpen or the minors. To get more rest, Gonzalez and Zambrano likely will go to the back end of the rotation.

LOOKING FOR WORK: Piniella said he will make an effort to get more playing time for rookie infielder Antonio Perez, who has made two starts since being promoted from Triple A on June 24.

"We didn't bring him up to sit," Piniella said. "If that's the case, we'll send him back and let him play."

TICKET TIME: Trying to do something to bolster the league's worst attendance (13,001 per game), the Rays are offering coupons inside the stadium for $5 off any $9 or higher ticket in July and two-for-one outfield tickets for any game through August.

MINOR MATTERS: Veteran catcher Jorge Fabregas and pitcher Matt Perisho were released from Durham. Dewon Brazelton joined Class A Bakersfield but has not pitched.

MISCELLANY: Aubrey Huff hit his 30th double, tying for the AL lead. The Rays had gone 47 days without back-to-back wins. Rays wives today will conduct their annual Baby Goods Drive benefiting Alpha, which provides support for homeless pregnant women and teens. Fans bringing items such as disposable diapers, formula and baby wipes get a voucher for an outfield ticket for July 17 or 18. The Rays had been 0-5 on the Fourth of July.

_ MARC TOPKIN

TONIGHT: RAYS VS. WHITE SOX

WHEN/WHERE: 6:15; Tropicana Field

TV/RADIO: FSN; WFLA-AM 970

PITCHERS: Rays _ RHP Jorge Sosa, 1-6, 5.06; White Sox _ RHP Esteban Loaiza, 11-3, 2.18

WORTH NOTING: Sosa, who rejoined the rotation after Dewon Brazelton was demoted, is 0-4 with a 5.90 ERA at home, 1-2, 3.79 on the road. Loaiza is one of the game's biggest first-half success stories after going 9-10, 5.71 last season with Toronto. He has struggled mightily against the Rays, going 3-5 with a 9.23 ERA, his highest against any team.

PROMOTION: Two Rays players will sign autographs from 4:55-5:25 p.m.

RAYS TICKETS: Available at the Tropicana Field box office, through all Ticketmaster outlets, online at devilrays.com or ticketmaster.com, and the Rays dugouts store at WestShore Plaza. Beach tickets go on sale at Gate 6 two hours before the game.

INFORMATION: Call toll-free 1-888-FAN-RAYS

OUTTA LEFTFIELD

Manager Lou Piniella already had planned to head to his beach house after the game and he appreciated the sendoff. "Until the ninth inning," he said, "I thought the only fireworks I'd see tonight would be over Redington Beach for the Fourth of July."

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