The 22-year-old emerging star went 4-for-5, scored three runs, stole two bases and had an RBI in a 10-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.
Crawford is 29-for-64 in his last 14 games, boosting his team-leading batting average to .319 with a major league-leading 35 steals.
“I’m just feeling comfortable at the plate and knowing which area I want to hit the ball in, instead of going up there swinging,” Crawford said. “I’ve got a good idea of when I want to swing now.”
The four-hit game was his fourth this season and came one night after he went 0-for-3 to end a stretch of seven consecutive games with two hits. He’s swiped two or more bases in a game seven times and is one steal shy of becoming just the eighth player since 1900 to steal 100 before his 23rd birthday.
Crawford, who has three homers and 29 RBIs, said he’s far short of being a complete player, though.
“I’m nowhere close to that because I can get better in my throwing, I can hit for a better average and hit for more power. I can do a bunch of stuff to improve. … But I feel like I’m getting better, and that’s the positive thing.”
Victor Zambrano pitched six solid innings to win his fifth straight decision, and the Devil Rays won for the 16th time in 18 games, continuing a surge that’s turned their season around.
Geoff Blum and Jose Cruz Jr. homered in support of Zambrano (8-4), who hasn’t lost in nine starts since May 15. The right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits, walked four and struck out three before being replaced by Jesus Colome.
Tampa Bay improved to a major league-best 27-8 since May 20 and climbed back over .500 (37-36) two days after becoming the first team in major league history to get above the break-even point after being 18 games below.
Blum hit a solo homer off Roy Halladay (6-5) in the fourth inning, while Cruz added a three-run shot for a 7-1 lead in the fifth. The Devil Rays also scored three in the first on Aubrey Huff’s single and RBI grounders by Fred McGriff and Julio Lugo.
Zambrano, who’s 7-1 at Tropicana Field this season, allowed run-scoring singles by Gregg Zaun in the first and Alex Rios in the sixth.
Halladay allowed seven runs on eight hits in five innings—his shortest outing of the season. He walked two and struck out three in his fourth start since missing two scheduled turns while he was on the disabled list with soreness in his right shoulder.
“I just didn’t make good pitches and they made me pay for it,” Halladay said.
“It was an off night against a team that’s hot,” Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca added. “Not a good combination.”
Halladay allowed Tampa Bay’s first four batters to reach base on three singles and a walk, then retired 11 in a row. Blum broke the string with the first homer off the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner since May 5—a stretch of 51 1-3 innings—to give the Devil Rays a 4-1 lead.
Cruz’s homer off the Toronto starter was the 166th of his career—one more than his father, former Houston All-Star Jose Cruz, hit from 1970 to 1988 with the Astros, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees.
Crawford had an RBI single in the sixth for Tampa Bay, and Huff added a two-run double in the eighth. Crawford has scored a run in a club-record nine consecutive games and has 15 RBIs in his last 16 games.
It all adds up to a resume that could land the Houston native a trip to his first All-Star game, which will be played at Minute Maid Park on July 13.
“I think he’s looking for a spot over there in his hometown,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. “I don’t think it’s going unnoticed aroundbaseball.”
Zambrano has 20 wins since the start of 2003. That’s 12 more than any other Tampa Bay pitcher. … Halladay has allowed 31 walks this year after giving up just 32 all of last season. … 1B Tino Martinez returned to the lineup after missing seven starts because of tightness in his left hamstring. … Cruz dropped Eric Hinske’s line drive in the first inning for his fifth error. The right fielder had two last season when he won a Gold Glove whileplaying with the San Francisco Giants.