Red-hot Carl Crawford settling in

DETROIT -- When Carl Crawford first arrived in Boston, he demonstrated the respect he held for the Red Sox legacy of great left-fielders by referring to "Mr. Rice" when speaking of Hall of Famer Jim Rice. Their company, he said, was something he was eager to join.

Then Crawford spent his first month in town hitting like Jeremy Hermida, another import from Florida who was gone by July. He was out of synch, out of sorts, out of a job as a top-of-the-order hitter for the Red Sox. He was giving a $1.42 return on a $142 million contract, and the natives, not to mention the bean-counters, were getting restless. How excited were fans supposed to get about a guy whose own manager had dropped him to the No. 8 hole in the lineup?

Well, they can start becoming excited now. Belated but by no means too late, the man dubbed the "Game-Changer" even before he put on a Red Sox uniform has announced his arrival with back-to-back four-hit games, including a home run and two doubles Wednesday in Cleveland, and two triples Thursday in Detroit.

"He's taking good swings, squaring up balls, pulling balls into the gap, using his legs -- it was a matter of time,'' said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, although there must have been times he thought his watch had stopped. "It's certainly nice to see.''

And the American League may never be the same.

"It felt real good just to be able to hit the ball and be yourself,'' Crawford said. "I haven't felt that way in a long time, so to have that feeling back for a few days, it's great.''

Even before Crawford's eruption, the Red Sox this month were leading the majors in every significant offensive category except for home runs, which they ranked second to the Yankees.

Now with Crawford reverting to All-Star instead of afterthought status, opposing pitchers are confronted with the task of navigating a lineup already transformed by another newcomer, Adrian Gonzalez, buoyed by a driven Jacoby Ellsbury, emerging Jed Lowrie and resurgent David Ortiz, and anchored by Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia.

Contagious? Even the catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek, have begun to hit, not to mention the part-timers (Drew Sutton, a total of five hits in the past two games) and the newly arrived (Josh Reddick had three hits Thursday).

But it is Crawford -- who woke up Wednesday morning in Cleveland batting .212 and headed out of Comerica Park Thursday afternoon batting .244 after eight hits in nine at-bats -- who is resembling the lethal weapon the Sox had in mind when they commited the next seven years to him.

"These last couple of days, they'll do him a world of good,'' Francona said. "Regardless of what you're hitting, you feel now like you're going in one direction, and it's better. He certainly feels that way.''

Crawford, despite his struggles, had made an impact this month with three walkoff hits. "He's been getting his hits,'' David Ortiz said the other day, "but he hasn't had those games where he can feel like he has finally figured it out.''

He has now.

"You can see the swings he's taking,'' Francona said. "They're good swings. He's getting in position where [he] can take good swings.

"He was late with his swing. It was hard to recognize pitches. He was almost in that emergency hack, you know. He's getting in position, he's a little quicker recognizing pitches, taking a healthier swing. Things have slowed down a little.

"Why that happens, I wish I knew, then it wouldn't have happened. That's why this game is so crazy.''

With J.D. Drew nursing a sore hamstring the past couple of days, Crawford has hit in the No. 6 hole the past two games. There would appear to be no going back to the 8-spot.

These were the first back-to-back four-hit games of Crawford's career. He had two four-hit games in a span of three games in 2007, part of a stretch in which he scorched the ball at a .595 pace (22-for-37). Does he expect that the past two days might signal a similar hot streak?

"Normally it does,'' he said. "We just have to see how it goes here. I've been feeling good the last few days. I'm going to try to keep that feeling. Hopefully it won't go away.''

There's no reason to believe it will. Crawford is settling in, and that should make everybody else in the league awfully nervous.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.