Coco Crisp of the A’s entered Wednesday hitless in 25 at-bats to start his season, but he was in the leadoff spot anyway, which manager Bob Melvin cited as an indication of his faith in his left fielder.
“He’s a key guy for us,” Melvin said. “My feeling is he just needs to get a hit and get it out of the way, and just play.”
Crisp got his first hit in the A’s 2-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox, a chopper up the middle that he turned into an infield single, and also made two diving catches in left field – the position he somewhat begrudgingly moved to earlier this spring at the A’s request.
That came after Crisp threw out his first runner since 2013 from left field Tuesday night, and also made a highlight-reel catch on a Mike Napoli drive to the warning track. But on Wednesday afternoon he was regretting a play he did not make in the A’s loss, which he pointed to as an indication he’s still not “extremely comfortable” at his new position.
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With a runner on second base and two outs in the second inning, Boston’s Daniel Nava hit a flare to shallow left field off A’s starter Sonny Gray. Three players converged on it, but nobody called for the ball and it dropped for a single, scoring Nava for the only run Gray allowed in seven innings.
Crisp, who missed the first month of the season following elbow surgery, said afterward: “If I felt like I was extremely comfortable, I would have made that play.” His reasoning: Being unfamiliar still with the distance between his positioning in left field and the third baseman, he wasn’t sure how aggressively to call for the ball and attempt a sliding catch, thinking Brett Lawrie might have had an easier play.
“I can see him, but I have to be able to look down a little sooner and get a better read … and judgment of where he’s at,” Crisp said. “I’ve got to run in, look down earlier, ’cause I know where the ball’s going to generally land, see if he has a play on it easy, call for it and then make the play.”
It still would likely have required Crisp to leave his feet, but he did so twice in the game to take hits away from Nava and Dustin Pedroia. For a player who has toiled mostly in center field with the A’s, and is now having to read and adjust to different angles in left, Melvin said Crisp’s ability “to make the plays that he has in left (is) kind of a testament to how hard he’s worked at it.”
“And it’s good to get that hit out of the way,” Melvin added.
Going back to the end of last season, Crisp had been hitless in 38 consecutive at-bats, the longest streak of his career and the second-longest since the A’s moved to Oakland in 1969. He ran it to 39 with a groundout in the second inning before hitting a chopper up the middle in the fifth that Pedroia tried to backhand on the run and bobbled. It was immediately ruled a hit.
It was Crisp’s second time on base – he walked in the first – but he was stranded both times on a day the A’s went 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position, saddling Gray with his first loss despite allowing three hits and striking out nine in seven innings. Crisp’s hit, it turned out, was a rare offensive highlight.
“We need him big-time, especially if he’s going to keep hitting at the top of the lineup for us,” right fielder Josh Reddick said. “Hopefully him getting the first one out of the way, some positive things will come his way.”