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Crawford steps up in big way for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- In the first two games of the National League Division Series, Carl Crawford was 2-for-9 with four strikeouts.

However, after a grueling regular season when success is measured over a six-month span, the postseason comes down to a few brief series where things can change in just one game.

For Crawford, the Dodgers' 13-6 win over the Braves in Game 3 of the NLDS on Sunday night was that game.

"I had a good night at the plate, drove in some runs," Crawford said. "Struggled in Game 2, so it was nice to come back, be able to bounce back and have a strong outing."

The 32-year-old outfielder went 2-for-5 with a three-run home run and scored three times.

After striking out to end Game 2, Crawford wasted no time getting back on track as he led off the first with a single. However, his true impact on the game came an inning later.

With two on and two outs, Braves pitcher Julio Teheran left a slider over the plate, and Crawford hit it into the Atlanta bullpen.

"Carl swings the bat great," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "That's a huge home run he hits for us."

The blast was Crawford's fourth career postseason home run, and although he shied away from ranking them, he acknowledged the impact it had on the game. The homer, one of 14 Dodgers hits, gave the team an early 4-2 lead and sent the 54,646 fans into a frenzy.

"All playoff home runs are big for me," Crawford said. "That's definitely a big one for me. To take the lead right there and get the team some momentum going into the rest of the game, it was huge for us. That was at a point in the game where we could have fell back and gotten into a big hole. It was good to hit that home run right there."

It's easy to look at the three RBIs and the home run to see Crawford's impact, but Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell said Crawford's leadership and 12 years of Major League experience are also vital in October.

"That's a veteran guy that's come here and helped the whole team out," Howell said. "His presence is amazing. He's been here before, he's been in the World Series, he's been on great teams and he's spreading his knowledge and his comfort feeling -- how he feels when he's playing -- to everybody else."

While Crawford's bat had more say on the game than his glove, he did provide a memorable defensive highlight in the eighth.

Braves catcher Brian McCann led off the inning and hit what seemed to be a foul ball into the first few rows of stands down the left-field line. Crawford, however, raced over and caught the ball while tumbling head over heels into the the first row.

"I honestly didn't think the ball was going to go into the stands," Crawford said. "It kept floating it seemed like, and I didn't see the wall coming. Next thing I know, I felt my feet coming up from under me and felt myself flipping over. Good thing is, I held onto the ball, and that's all that matters."

William Boor is an associate reporter for
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