While the Red Sox have had COVID ravaging through their clubhouse — by first pitch Sunday they had a whopping 11 players out of action — it had avoided their rotation before Sunday. But they lost scheduled starter Nick Pivetta before the game to the COVID list, and Kutter Crawford was thrust into the majors. While his stuff looked solid, he still struggled and helped dig his team in an early hole. Boston’s offense tried to mount a comeback in the latter half of the game after leaving everyone on base in the first half, but they were never able to get back in the game completely, and ultimately dropped this one.
Although the Red Sox have been winning games of late, and it’s been impressive given the roster limitations, it’s seemed for a bit that sooner or later it had to catch up to them. And once the COVID issues hit the rotation, with Nick Pivetta hitting the COVID IL on Sunday, that seemed like a prime time for that to happen.
Kutter Crawford was called up for his big-league debut, almost certainly earlier than the organization had ever planned, and it wasn’t great. The stuff wasn’t terrible, and really some of the batted balls that ended with hits came on pitches that really weren’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things. But on the flip side, he failed to put batters away despite consistently getting ahead in counts, and when he needed ground balls he wasn’t able to get them.
And the result was a quick outing that ended with a deficit for his team. Right away there were issues for the rookie, as he walked the first batter he faced before giving up back-to-back singles. Like I said, the pitches weren’t terrible — the first was out of the zone down and away while the second was up above the zone — but Cleveland’s bats hit them for a line. It loaded up the bases with nobody out, and while Crawford got three straight outs from there, two were sacrifice flies to give Cleveland the 2-0 lead after the top of the first.
The second started with more definitive contact, with Owen Miller leading things off with a double off the wall in center field. After a swinging bunt moved the runner to third and a fly ball, Crawford got ahead 0-2 on Myles Straw. But as alluded to above, he couldn’t put him away and instead gave up a base hit to make it a 3-0 game.
Crawford got out of the inning after that, but only had two more batters in the game. Franmil Reyes started off the third by getting a fat pitch right in the middle of the zone and hitting it over everything in left field. After a walk, the day was over for Crawford, and another newcomer in John Schreiber was coming in to relieve. The righty gave up a double and a couple of base hits before the inning was out, and Cleveland had a six-run lead by the end of the third.
Over on the other side, Boston’s offense was struggling against Zach Plesac. They had a leadoff walk of their own to start this game, but they didn’t turn it into the same rally. Instead, they got two on with one or fewer outs in each of the first two innings without scoring. They’d do the same in the fourth as well, and they were still without a run through four.
But Schreiber was able to settle down after that initial action out of the bullpen in the third, and he had two scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth to keep Cleveland from totally running away with things. And sure enough, the Red Sox offense came alive in the fifth. Hunter Renfroe got things started with a double out to center field, and J.D. Martinez followed with a double of his own to give Boston their first run of the day.
The rally only continued from there, and after a walk and a base hit, Travis Shaw came up with two on in a 6-2 game, still with nobody out. He just missed a home run, instead settling for a double off the top of the wall in right field to cut the deficit down to three. And after a fly out too shallow to get the run home (though Kevin Plawecki could have scored as the throw back in was a poor one), Alex Cora got aggressive.
Rafael Devers had the day off, but he was called upon to pinch hit in the fifth with two in scoring position with one out. It was the right call, but it didn’t work out as Devers failed to put the ball in play and struck out swinging. Jonathan Araúz did the same, and the Sox settled for the three runs to make it a 6-3 game.
Schreiber came on for one more batter, giving up a leadoff double in the sixth before Stephen Gonsalves came in to relieve him. The southpaw worked his way out of the inning without allowing the run to score. That was in part thanks to a great play at second from Taylor Motter, who entered the game for Devers.
And that scoreless frame would prove to be a big one, because the Red Sox bats kept going in the sixth with Cleveland now in their bullpen. The rally started with a base hit from Renfroe, which was then followed by Martinez obliterating a fastball. He took the heat up in the zone and blasted it way out to center field for a two-run shot, and like that, Boston was back within a run. Alex Verdugo followed the homer with a double as well, but they couldn’t get him in to tie the game.
Ryan Brasier kept the deficit at a run with a three-batter seventh, but the Red Sox would go down in three batters as well in the bottom of the inning when Motter was back picked off first base.
After a perfect eighth from Hansel Robles, the offense had six more outs to play with to score at least one more run. They had the top of the order coming around for the bottom half of the eighth, but they managed just a single in a scoreless inning of their own.
Phillips Valdez then came on for the ninth and let the game get away again. It was a brutal day for the righty, and by the time the dust settled he had given up five runs to push the deficit to six. Boston’s offense couldn’t match that output, and the Red Sox lost.
The 10-5 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 79-60. Boston stays a half game behind New York for the top wildcard spot with the Yankees losing their game today to the Orioles. Meanwhile, Toronto finished their sweep of Oakland, putting them in a tie at four games back for the second spot. Seattle entered the day also trailing by four runs and currently hold an early one-run lead against the Diamondbacks.
The Red Sox now welcome the Rays to Boston on Monday for the first of three. Chris Sale gets the ball for the afternoon tilt while Tampa still has yet to announce their starter. First pitch is set for 1:10 PM ET.