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IFFY OUT CALLS IRK CRAWFORD

LF Carl Crawford isn't one to typically blow up at an umpire over an apparent missed call on the basepaths.

The four-time AL stolen base champion may give a look of disbelief or disappointment, but he respects the game and usually leaves it at that.

But Crawford was frustrated enough after Sunday's game to voice his displeasure.

He feels many recent calls have gone against him on stolen-base attempts when replays showed he was safe. He wondered if it might be because he always slides feet first, and umpires may not be in the right position to see it.

Either way, it has bothered him quite a bit, and it came up again after Crawford was called out by Triple-A umpire Damien Beal (filling in for Sam Holbrook) in the seventh after he tried to steal third. Replays showed Crawford, sliding feet first, reached the bag before Edwin Encarnacion tagged him around the waist.

"I've been looking safe a lot lately; for some reason I've just been getting called out," Crawford said. "I don't know what it is. ... I think it has a lot to do with me sliding feet first, and they're just not getting in the proper position to see that I'm safe most of the time.

"You look at half of the times I've been called out this year, go look at the replay, I was safe. It is something that seems like to me they're not trying to figure out, and I don't expect them to.

"So I want to try to make it clear the next time that I run."

Crawford, who is second in the AL with 59 steals, has been caught 15 times. Manager Joe Maddon said he thought Sunday's call was wrong.

"I'm just getting a little bit tired of it, and it's starting to frustrate me a little bit," Crawford said. "That's the only reason why I'm extending the conversation to you guys about it."

STRONG PEN: Maddon said that all it would take was a couple of good performances by the relievers to get their confidence back following their worst slump of the season.

The past three games, they have returned to form.

Three relievers combined to throw 21/3 scoreless innings Sunday to preserve the Rays' 3-1 win and cap a near-perfect series in which the bullpen didn't give up a run in seven innings.

Sunday was a group effort, with five relievers combining to get the final seven outs. There were some high-leverage moments, as RHPs Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler both stranded the tying run on second. And LHP J.P. Howell got the final out for his first save since Aug. 29.

The bullpen had entered the Jays series coming off a woeful stretch in which it went 2-12 with a major-league-high nine blown saves (out of 13 chances) since Aug. 7.

Howell said part of it is that the whole team has played better the past three days, which has been contagious and trickled down to the relievers.

"They're feeling a lot better about themselves," Maddon said. "They went through a tough stretch, emotionally and physically, and they're beginning to look like themselves right now."

WADING IN: Maddon said the decision to pitch RHP Wade Davis on Wednesday, with one extra day of rest, was partly so the hard-throwing rookie could get three more starts the rest of the season as opposed to two if RHP James Shields had taken his place.

MISCELLANY: DH Pat Burrell had a season-high three hits. ... CF B.J. Upton broke an 0-for-17 slump with a fourth-inning single. ... Willy Aybar set a career high with his 11th homer. ... Ben Zobrist has a nine-game hitting streak.

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