ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Carl Crawford slid into second base, tying a modern major league record with six stolen bases. The crowd of 32,332 roared, and the Tampa Bay Rays immediately flashed a message on the scoreboard acknowledging the feat.
Everybody in the building seemed to know what was going on. That is, except Crawford, who was aware of how many steals he had but had no clue that just three other players had accomplished the same since 1900.
"I found that out late. I wish I had known during the game," said Crawford, who got No. 6 in the eighth inning of the Rays' 5-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
"I probably would have broken it if I knew. I'd have definitely tried," he added. "I didn't even try. I don't know if that will ever happen again."
Crawford was 4-for-4 with an RBI and joined Eddie Collins, Otis Nixon, and Eric Young as the only players to steal six bases in a game. Collins did it twice in 1912, while Nixon and Young did it in 1991 and 1996, respectively.
"We don't really talk stats during the game. Everybody's focused on the game, so nobody said nothing," Crawford said.
So, what about the message on the large video screen, and the loud ovation from the crowd?
"Oh, that's what they were cheering about," Crawford said. "I thought they were just cheering. I didn't look. I was paying attention to the game."
James Shields shrugged off a shaky start to pitch into the eighth inning, and Tampa Bay won three of four, outscoring the Red Sox 30-15 to improve to 5-2 against their AL East rivals this season.
The Rays had dropped six consecutive series since taking two of three from Boston when the teams met at Fenway Park the opening week of the season.
Jason Bartlett and Michel Hernandez stole bases for the Rays, who finished with a franchise record eight. Crawford moved ahead of Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury (13) as the major league steals leader with 17.
"He's an athlete, one of the fastest guys in the big leagues," Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo said.
"He's good," catcher Jason Varitek agreed, "and he's got the speed to go along with it."
Shields (3-2), who has been tough on the Red Sox at Tropicana Field, allowed one run and six hits in 7 1/3 innings. He is 3-1 in six career starts against Boston at home, compared to 0-4 with a 9.56 ERA in four starts at Fenway, where Josh Beckett beat him on Opening Day.
Bartlett, Hernandez and Carlos Pena drove in runs off Brad Penny (2-1) for Tampa Bay. Crawford's second infield single of the day, coming after Bartlett stole third, drove in an insurance run in the eighth.
The four-time AL stolen base champion had an uncontested steal of third in the fifth inning. With two outs in the eighth, he swiped second for the fifth time to become the first player with six in a game since Young with Colorado on June 30, 1996.
"He had a spectacular day," Boston manager Terry Francona said.
Shields yielded a bases-loaded single to J.D. Drew in the first, but worked through the jam and didn't allow another runner past second base. The right-hander struck out six and walked two before being replaced by J.P. Howell with one on and one out in the eighth.
Howell retired struggling David Ortiz on a grounder back to the mound, then gave up a two-run homer to Kevin Youkilis, trimming Tampa Bay's lead to 4-3. Drew singled and Jason Bay walked, however the Red Sox stranded the potential tying run at second when Dan Wheeler got Mike Lowell fly out.
Closer Troy Percival worked the ninth for his third save.
The Red Sox entered the series as the hottest team in baseball, having won 12 of 13. They outscored 19-2 in the first two games, but avoided a sweep with a 10-6 victory on Saturday night.
"I think everyone is over this. We have 140-something games left," Boston's Dustin Pedroia said. "I don't think anybody's hitting the panic button. ... We're going to be fine. We're confident in our ability."
Youkilis has four homers and 15 RBIs in his last 14 games. ... Bay was back in Boston's lineup after leaving Saturday night's game in the sixth inning because of a left ankle bruise. ... Rays OF Gabe Gross left the team to be with his wife for the birth of their baby. He's expected to return on Tuesday. ... High School LHP Patrick Shuster, who set a Florida prep record with four consecutive no-hitters, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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