Crawford, Garza find groove as Rays roll

Crawford, Garza find groove as Rays roll

BALTIMORE -- Every now and then, Carl Crawford offers a performance in which he allows mere mortals to sneak a peek at what it's like to be superhuman.

Monday night brought one of those nights for Crawford, who packed a cape for the first game of the Rays' 10-game road trip. His work, along with that of starter Matt Garza, helped the Rays hit the road running as they defeated the Orioles, 5-1, in front of a crowd of 9,129 at Camden Yards.

Crawford went 4-for-4 with two singles, a double and a 402-foot home run to top off his performance on offense.

"I started swinging the bat a little better, got a few pitches I could handle, found some holes," Crawford said. "I just hope I can continue to swing the bat like that."

And on defense, well, just ask Garza what he thought of the catch the Rays' left fielder made with one out in the seventh.

"Ridiculous. I even told him that's disgusting what he did," Garza said. "You really can't put it into words, you're just so appreciative."

The Rays were protecting a 3-1 lead when Garrett Atkins smoked a deep drive to left field that Crawford backhanded diving toward the wall. Luke Scott would easily have scored from first on the play, and it would have been a far different game.

"For me, the play of the game was Crawford making that catch," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "You would think sooner or later we would get one of those to fall in. He had a heck of a game and made the real good catch of the game."

Crawford said he simply tries to catch every ball he can get to.

"I'm just trying to help the pitchers out," Crawford said. "I mean, I wasn't sure [if he could make the catch]. I can't say I was going to get to it.

"I knew I had a good bead on it. I just had a good angle on it. I just jumped at the last second and was able to pull it in. I didn't think I had it all the way, but I thought I had a good chance to get it."

Crawford's all-around game begged the question, what did he like best from his performance Monday night?

"I like my defense, but I love my home runs, too," Crawford said. "Anybody who says they like anything better than a home run is lying."

Meanwhile, Garza picked up where he left off after his first start by earning his second win of the season, again at the Orioles' expense. Garza allowed one run on six hits while walking three and striking out five in eight innings. He threw just 103 pitches and probably could have finished the game, except Rays manager Joe Maddon wanted to get closer Rafael Soriano action, and Soriano delivered a scoreless ninth to finish the game.

Garza is now 8-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 10 career starts against the Orioles.

"I think if you ask any hitter, he's one of the best pitchers in the league," Ty Wigginton said. "He's got a lot of movement, he throws hard and he's got good off-speed stuff."

Garza allowed a home run to Felix Pie, the first batter he faced Monday night, but settled in after that.

"Garza is a power pitcher and comes out right from the first inning, every pitch is power stuff," Trembley said. "He pitches inside, has real good life and he has shown himself to be one of the better pitchers in the league."

Compliments aside, Garza proved to be his harshest critic Monday night as he made his sentiments clear: Walks are the enemy.

"Too many walks, five in two games, that's ridiculous," Garza said. "[Not walking guys is] something I worked on and took pride in during Spring Training. And I'm not doing it. I'm walking guys instead of making them compete.

"The way our defense played tonight, I've got to make these guys put the ball into play instead of giving them free bases. I'm fine with giving up the solo [home run], but if a guy's on that's a two-run shot, and the guy didn't even [deserve] to be on."

The Rays entered the season hoping to improve on last season's dismal 32-49 road record, so kicking off a 10-game, 11-day road trip with a check in the win column was a nice way to begin their 81-game road slate.

"It's good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We need to be a much better road team, period. There's no way around that."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.