LOS ANGELES -- Nothing has changed.
Carl Crawford is still better at losing games for the Red Sox than winning them.
Crawford, who tormented the Sox for eight seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, then tortured them with his subpar performance during two injury-filled seasons in Boston, made good Friday night on his vow to make the Sox as miserable as he was during the Sox chapter of his career.
Crawford, who said he was pointing to this series ever since he was shipped out as damaged goods (surgically repaired elbow) in last August's megatrade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, singled twice, stole two bases and scored ahead of Hanley Ramirez's fourth-inning home run in L.A.'s 2-0 win over the Sox before a crowd of 50,240 at Dodger Stadium.
If this was a potential World Series preview -- the Dodgers are winning at an ungodly rate (46-10 since June 22, 29-5 since the All-Star break), while the Red Sox lead the AL East -- then the prevailing theme became pretty obvious: It's all about the pitching. And right now, no one is pitching better than the Dodgers.
Right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who began the season as the Opening Day pitcher for the Miami Marlins and was acquired only after the Dodgers' supposedly deep rotation was decimated by injuries -- including season-ending surgery for former Sox right-hander Josh Beckett -- shut out the Sox on two singles over eight innings.
Only one Sox batter reached second base. That was in the fifth, when Daniel Nava was hit by a pitch and Stephen Drew singled to right with one out. But the next batter, Will Middlebrooks, grounded sharply into an around-the-horn double play started by third baseman Juan Uribe, and Nolasco set down the last nine Sox batters he faced in order.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to beat those guys," Crawford said in a postgame interview conducted on the field.
Nolasco did not walk a batter and struck out six to outduel John Lackey, who gave the Sox eight innings of three-hit, no-walk pitching but was beaten by Ramirez's two-out drive that cleared the center-field fence.
Ramirez, of course, also played for the Red Sox and was traded to the Marlins in a circuitous bit of business in which the Sox acquired Beckett, who, in his second season with Boston, pitched the Red Sox to the World Series title in 2007.
The night abounded with cross-pollination, beginning with the ceremonial first pitch, which was thrown by Reggie Smith, who broke in with the Red Sox, starred for the Dodgers and lives in Southern California.
Crawford hit leadoff for the Dodgers, with Adrian Gonzalez in the 3-hole and Ramirez cleanup. Tim Federowicz was the Dodgers catcher; he was a Sox prospect who wound up with the Dodgers in a three-way deal that netted the Red Sox the useless Erik Bedard. Victorino was originally drafted by the Dodgers, was then traded to Philadelphia and played last season with the Dodgers before the Crawford deal made him expendable. He signed as a free agent with the Sox.
The Dodgers' assistant hitting coach, meanwhile, is John Valentin, one of the most popular Sox players of the ‘90s. "Carl's played great here," Valentin said of Crawford. "Boston is a tough place to play."