<
>

Carl Crawford has plenty to be happy about

LOS ANGELES -- As Juan Uribe was being showered with champagne and beer in the Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse and ushered into the press conference room after the game, Carl Crawford was tucked away safely behind a plastic curtain near his locker.

Crawford needed a moment to himself and sat down, while his 9-year-old son, Justin, danced to music blasting in the background.

While Sandy Koufax congratulated Clayton Kershaw on his game, and a dozen Dodgers and owner Mark Walter hugged Uribe, Crawford quietly smiled as he watched his son boogie before giving him a hug.

Before Uribe became the Game 4 hero for his game-winning home run that closed out the Atlanta Braves, Crawford was the only player keeping the Dodgers in the game.

Crawford hit a solo home run in each of his first two at-bats, including the first team at-bat, which was just the second leadoff homer in Dodgers postseason history.

It was the ninth multiple-homer game by a Dodger in the postseason, and Crawford was just the seventh Dodger player to accomplish the feat.

“I knew it was going to be a close game with tough pitching, so I wanted to be aggressive,” Crawford said. “I was happy I got the first home run. But the second home run? I couldn’t believe it. To hit two home runs in the postseason is definitely big. I was really amazed.”

Braves starter Freddy Garcia only allowed the two runs from Crawford while giving up just eight hits in six innings.

“No one else could get to Freddy tonight other than him,” Andre Ethier said of Crawford. “He came up big there and got us on the board quick with two runs. Carl really kept us in the game while Freddy was shutting us down.”

As Crawford looked on while his team celebrated in the clubhouse, he smiled while thinking back to where he was last year.

Crawford underwent Tommy John surgery last year, which ended his season before he was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Dodgers. He had signed a 7-year, $142 million contract with Boston after the 2010 season, coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays. It was a signing that was quickly panned as a bust and resulted in two of the most miserable years of Crawford’s life.

“The change of scenery for me was great,” Crawford said. “I felt like myself again. I love it here in L.A. and I’m happy they brought me over here.”

When Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was considering a blockbuster trade with the Red Sox last year that would bring Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to Los Angeles, Crawford was a big part of the deal despite the fact he was not going to play last season while recovering from surgery.

“Carl Crawford has been tremendous,” Colletti said. “To see what he’s done in this series is great. I’m happy for him, because the crowd loves him and he’s turned it up big time with big hits. Two years ago when he was a free agent, he was one of the most sought-after free agents in a long time. He’s got power and speed and can play good defense, and to see him feel good about himself again is great.”

Crawford wasn’t supposed to begin the season with the Dodgers after recovering from surgery, but he made his debut as the starting left fielder and leadoff hitter on Opening Day. He had hoped to stay off the disabled list but missed a month with a hamstring injury.

Crawford, however, was a key player in the Dodgers’ historic summer run. He played in 116 games and hit .283 with six home runs, 31 RBI and 15 stolen bases.

“Coming back, for me, I just wanted to get a full year,” Crawford said. “I was on the DL, but I felt I was able to do something. And hopefully l’ll be healthier and even better next year.”

Don Mattingly grinned as he walked past Crawford after the game in the clubhouse. “The look on his face was great when he hit those home runs,” the Dodgers' manager said.

Crawford was happy to be happy.

“Just to be able to smile again feels good,” he said. “I feel like I hadn’t done it two years. Just to be able to smile again and feel good again is great. Hopefully I’ll be smiling some more.”