MIAMI — Don Mattingly says he hasn't lost confidence in Carl Crawford.
Never mind the .185 batting average entering Saturday. Or the four hits in his last 45 at-bats. Or even the .212 on-base percentage.
“Carl has struggled, but that doesn't mean he's ever out of our plans,” Mattingly said moments after writing out a lineup that didn't include Crawford. “I'm confident that he's going to get back.”
Five hours later, Crawford rewarded that patience, belting a two-run home run in the 11th inning to beat the Miami Marlins, 9-7.
“You hope to just get a base hit,” said Crawford, who entered the game in a double switch an inning earlier and went to the plate batting .088 since April 15. “It felt great, a wonderful feeling.”
It probably felt great for the bullpen too, since Crawford's home run rescued a quartet of relievers who let a four-run lead get away. Brian Wilson got the Miami rally started by giving up a three-run home run to Marcell Ozuna in the seventh inning, the Marlins' third homer of the night. Then, Chris Perez — asked to get the last three outs because closer Kenley Jansen was given the night off — finished the rally by walking in the tying run in the ninth, sending the Dodgers into extra innings for the eighth time in 31 games.
While that probably wasn't the way Mattingly would've scripted it, the bullpen woes may have wound up rescuing Crawford too.
“Hopefully it's something that springboards him,” Mattingly said. “It's a big hit. Hits are a lot bigger when they help the team. So when you do something like that he knows it helps the team and it makes you part of it.
“And that's the problem. When you struggle, you don't feel like you're helping anybody and you don't feel like you're a part of what's going on. Something like that can change that.”
Crawford has certainly been struggling. Two weeks into the season, he was hitting a robust .306 and Mattingly said he was squaring the ball up as well as anybody in a lineup that includes Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez. But then he hit a few line drives right at fielders; as his average dropped, Crawford started pressing.
“If you don't swing at strikes, it's going to be hard to hit,” Mattingly said.
As the slump deepened, Crawford was in danger of losing his spot in the Dodgers' four-man outfield rotation. But he may have taken the first step on the road to winning it back Saturday.
“When something like that happens, it uplifts you,” Crawford after his first homer of the season. “It's a big lift for me, somebody looking for anything positive to get through the next day. To come through with a big hit like that and win the game, it's definitely encouraging.”
Five Dodgers had multiple hits, with Matt Kemp getting three and Juan Uribe, Miguel Olivo and Puig adding two each. Then there's Dee Gordon, another player who made Mattingly look like a genius Saturday.
The manager said he originally planned to rest Gordon during the Marlins series after he played all 21 innings of Thursday's doubleheader in Minnesota. Instead, Gordon started both nights, getting eight hits, including a career-high five Saturday.
“This game is funny because three days ago he was looking bad,” Mattingly said of Gordon, who also stole three bases to increase his major league-leading total to 19. “And then all of sudden he's back.”
The same could be said of Crawford.
“That's the thing. This game is so funny,” Mattingly said. “Because you're looking like you're going the wrong direction and the next thing you know, a couple of hits in a row, and you're going in the right direction.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times