Urías' slam backs Crawford's dominant outing to take series from Yanks

August 20th, 2023

NEW YORK -- What are the chances of right-hander Kutter Crawford outdueling right-hander Gerrit Cole in a game? The odds seem impossible, considering Cole is an AL Cy Young Award candidate and Crawford is in his third year in the Majors and had a career 4.78 ERA entering Saturday.

“I know Gerrit Cole is one of the best pitchers in the big leagues,” Crawford said. “So I knew I needed to be good. I needed to command the baseball and mix it up.”

Crawford commanded the baseball on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. He pitched his best game of the season and helped the Red Sox pound the Yankees, 8-1.

The Red Sox improved their record to 65-58 and are three games behind the Mariners for the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Crawford pitched six innings, allowed one run on one hit and struck out five batters. His only blemish came in the sixth, when Aaron Judge broke up Crawford’s no-hit bid by hitting his 24th home run into the Red Sox’s bullpen.

“It feels good to help the team in any way possible, no matter the role,” said Crawford, who started the season as a reliever. “I know my job is to go out there, compete every single pitch and give my team a chance to win every single time I take that mound. That’s my main goal day in and day out.”       

Prior to the Judge home run, it was almost nothing but weak contact from the Yankees.

“He kept pounding the strike zone, was able to work ahead [in the count] and did an outstanding job for us,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.

Since the All-Star break, Crawford has a 2.86 ERA in seven starts. Opposing teams are aware of his buffet of pitches, which includes the cutter, four-seam fastball and breaking ball. Crawford has strike-throwing ability. 

“We have to manage him,” Cora said. “We saw it last year. He kind of hit the wall at one point. This year, he was amazing from the bullpen. He has been solid from the rotation. You look at the numbers after the All-Star break, they have been really good. … He is a guy we rely on.”               

As for Cole, he lasted four innings and was hit hard, allowing six runs on seven hits. 

“The at-bats were tremendous today,” Cora said. “Like I said, [Cole] is [one of] if not the best starter in the big leagues. We stay humble with the approach, like taking walks, going the other way, hitting the ball hard, fouling off pitches. … Credit to the offense. They were relentless.”          

To show how relentless the Red Sox were: Cole threw 33 pitches in the second inning. It was the frame in which Boston scored its first four runs off Cole. With one out and the bases loaded, Luis Urías swung at the first pitch and hit a grand slam, his second in consecutive games played. The first one was hit in the seventh inning on Thursday against Nationals reliever Robert Garcia.

“I faced Gerrit Cole in the past when I was with the Brewers. I have a pretty good idea what he has,” Urías said through interpreter Carlos Villoria-Benitez. “Obviously, I was trying to be a little more aggressive with runners in scoring position. I tried to bring in those runs. Luckily, I was able to make good contact and the ball went out.”       

According to ESPN Stats and info, Urías is the first Red Sox player to hit a grand slam in back-to-back games played since Jimmie Foxx in 1940. Urías is also the first player with a grand slam in consecutive plate appearances since Josh Willingham did it in consecutive innings on July 27, 2009.

“I never hit a grand slam before in my career, not even in little league or the Minor Leagues,” Urías said. “Now, I have two. I have one against the Yankees, one of the biggest rivalries in baseball. So I’m very excited for it. I’m excited that the team won. We just keep going.”  

Boston added to the scoring against Cole two innings later when Connor Wong hit a two-runner to make it a six-run game.

"Obviously not my best stuff today. I put a lot of well located pitches and paired a lot of good pitches together. I'm just a little bit confused on why the level of execution on their side is so high,” Cole said. “... For whatever reason, they were extra focused and able to bring out their best bullets today. Not only did they capitalize on poor pitches, but they capitalized on really, really good pitches."

The Red Sox have won seven of eight vs. the Yankees this season, outscoring them 48-to-19.

“A good team effort. We have to be ready for tomorrow,” Cora said. “From here [on], every day matters. It matters from March 29th, but now, you can feel it. They are in a good place. Hopefully, we can come tomorrow and finish the job.”