The last time the Red Sox faced the Rays, Brad Penny was on the mound and Carl Crawford stole an American League-record six bases in one game.
Tonight, at Fenway Park, Brad Penny is on the mound and Carl Crawford is poised to do the same thing all over again if he gets the opportunity.
A reporter asked Terry Francona today how he plans to defend against Crawford running wild. The Red Sox manager's strategy was simple:
1. Keep Crawford off base.
2. That's it. Keep Crawford off base.
"Penny's times to the plate were as good as he's going to get without really screwing up his pitching," Francona said. "It's like Jacoby (Ellsbury) -- how many times have we seen this year when they've pitched out with Jacoby and didn't throw him out? That's part of why they have success. The best way we can stop that is not letting him get on base because sometimes he's too fast.
"There was a game in Tampa -- it wasn't the game where he stole the bunch of bases -- but we actually held him on at second, and he stole third flat-footed. If you can't stop him then, you'vej ust got to keep him off base."
The last time the Red Sox played the Rays, after all, Crawford reached base five times en route to his six stolen bases. It's tough for him to run wild, though, if he's not getting on base.
"If we can get the first out of an inning, that really sometimes slows them down," Francona said.
Well, let's not go that far. Here's a look at Crawford's stolen bases last Sunday:
B.J. Upton led off with a groundout, and Crawford followed with a one-out walk. He then stole second on the first pitch.
Upton led off with a strikeout. Crawford followed with a one-out single but waited until there were two outs -- Evan Longoria flew to center field -- to steal second base.
Crawford led off with a single to right field and stole second on the first pitch to Longoria. Longoria then struck out and Carlos Pena popped to third. Crawford stole third on the first pitch Penny threw to Pat Burrell with two outs.
Upton led off with a pop fly to second base. Crawford hit a one-out single and stole second base during Longoria's at-bat.
There already were two outs when Crawford beat out an infield single to shortstop. He then stole second base during Longoria's at-bat.
The lesson learned here is that you can't slow down Crawford at all, right. No outs, one out, two outs -- it's all the same. All the Red Sox can do is keep the guy off the basepaths.