Red Sox waste Crawford's Marathon Monday gem, O'Neill exits after collision

Gabrielle Starr, Boston Herald on

Published in Baseball

BOSTON — “The vibe is different, and it should be fun,” said Alex Cora before Fenway Park’s annual Marathon Monday morning game. “I always loved it.”

Unfortunately, the vibe was painfully familiar and decidedly not fun when the Red Sox fell to the Guardians 6-0 a few hours later in a game punctuated by a terrifying collision between Rafael Devers and Tyler O’Neill.

As runners made their way from Hopkinton to Copley Square, there was little action on the basepaths at Fenway. The Boston bats managed just three hits – one apiece from Jarren Duran, Devers, and O’Neill at the top of the order – and two walks, and struck out eight times.

“We hit the ball in the air, but lazy fly-balls,” Cora assessed.

The loss, which gives the Red Sox a 9-8 record, was made worse by what was wasted. Kutter Crawford had been magnificent, holding the Guardians to two hits and striking out six over 5 ⅔ innings. According to the club’s media relations, the right-hander the only pitcher in franchise history – openers excluded – to allow no more than one earned run and three or fewer hits in each of their first four starts of a season.

“I think the big emphasis for me was to attack the zone consistently,” Crawford assessed. He was able to work around falling behind in counts by forcing hitters to swing, and finished the outing without issuing a single walk.

“He was great,” Cora lauded. “He worked hard in the offseason to maintain his stuff from pitch No. 75 to pitch No. 100, and that’s something he didn’t do last year.

“Now, the fastball is playing, the cutter is good, the split was okay today,” the skipper added. “He has a good feel, and he has good stuff, too.”

Crawford also acknowledged that he’s come a long way over the past two years, calling the ’22 season a “big learning year.”

“Throwing the strikes is huge, competing is huge, and trusting your stuff, having conviction in your pitches,” he explained. “Previous starts, I leaned on the sweeper, today I leaned on the cutter, and I had conviction in those pitches today.”

And because sometimes, there’s inexplicable magic in baseball, Crawford’s Jackie Robinson Day performance lowered his ERA to 0.42. It’s the best ERA by a Sox starter through four games (minimum 20 innings) since Roger Clemens posted a 0.28 through his opening quartet in ’91.

The Sox starter had some valuable backup. Wilyer Abreu’s tumbling catch robbed Guardians slugger José Ramírez of a home run and ended the top of the first.


“Actually, when Ramírez hit it, I’m looking at Ramírez because it seemed like he crushed that one and also in the reaction of the fans, so I didn’t see it live,” Cora admitted. “Then I saw replay and good one, good one.”

Duran made a trio of Gold Glove-caliber plays; he opened the fourth with a leaping catch over his left shoulder, then bookended the sixth with a leaping catch up at the Boston bullpen, robbing Brayan Rocchio of a potential home run, and a sliding catch to cement Crawford’s shutout start.

But because nothing can come easy to this team, the Sox endured yet another terrifying moment in the top of the seventh. With two outs and a brand-new 2-0 deficit courtesy of Will Brennan’s pinch-hit home run, Devers, O’Neill, and Ceddanne Rafaela collided in shallow left, trying to nab Estevan Florial’s popup.

Devers managed to hang on to the ball, but he and O’Neill remained on the ground for several minutes as trainers from both teams raced out to check on them. Fenway Park breathed a collective sigh of relief when all three players were able to walk off the field on their own, though O’Neill could be seen holding a cloth to a bleeding cut above his left eye.

From there, things went from bad to worse. Josh Winckowski took the mound and after getting Gabriel Arias to strike out swinging, issued a walk to Rocchio, who promptly stole second. A single by Steven Kwan put runners on the corners, and a two-out double by José Ramírez plated two more runs for the Guardians. Only one run was charged to Winckowski, though; Wilyer Abreu’s throwing error was the culprit behind the other.

“Yeah, it sucks,” Cora admitted of some of the late-game defensive struggles, “But just have to keep working with them, have to. We have to make plays, we have to make plays. It’s frustrating for everybody, but at the same time we cannot get down on them. They’re trying to make plays.”

The Guardians tacked on another pair of runs in the top of the ninth. Chase Anderson gave up a leadoff single and a pair of two-out hits, bringing the visiting team’s lead to 6-0 before getting out of the inning.

Devers hustled to first to lead off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but it was for naught. The next three batters went quickly and quietly, and for the second time in four days and third time in 17 games this year, the Sox were shut out.

O’Neill needed eight stitches for a “big gash” and is going through concussion protocol, his manager announced after the game. Now, the Sox need to hope their hottest hitter won’t join the already-crowded injured list.

“Same deal” for Devers, though Cora said the third baseman – back in the lineup after missing four games with the nagging shoulder soreness – feels good. He was optimistic about O’Neill as well. “Well see, but I don’t think there’s any need to make a move.”


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