Crawford's bounce-back start spoiled by costly miscue, solo shots

June 12th, 2024

BOSTON -- With a 5.82 ERA in his last six starts entering Tuesday’s series opener, was in need of a bounce-back outing. Facing the best team in the National League in the Phillies, the right-hander had his work cut out for him.

Crawford notched his sixth quality start of the season in a strong six-inning outing, but two solo shots and a missed play at first ultimately sunk the Red Sox in a 4-1 loss to the Phillies at Fenway Park.

“He threw the ball well,” manager Alex Cora said. “Two solo shots and we didn’t make a play. Like I always say, we’re gonna go as long as our defense goes, and today, we had a tough one. It’s a 2-1 game with a chance to probably win the game, but we put ourselves in a bad spot. But [Crawford] was good. Obviously, Kyle [Schwarber] did what he did, but it’s 2-0 -- it’s two solo shots. And we threw a lot of strikes, got some swing and misses and we didn’t make one play.”

Schwarber wasted no time in his first visit to Fenway since October 2021, hitting the first pitch of the night -- a middle-middle fastball from Crawford -- over the right-field wall to get the Phillies on the board. Crawford quickly rebounded and retired nine of his next 10 batters, including a three-pitch strikeout of Schwarber in the third.

“Last couple [starts] I thought were trending in the right direction as well, and then tonight was kind of putting all that together,” Crawford said. “Obviously, Schwarber got me a couple of times there, but mechanically, pitch shapes, the way I was attacking the zone, felt a lot better tonight.”

With two on and two out and the game tied in the fourth, a dropped ball by allowed David Dahl to reach and two unearned runs to score to suddenly put the Red Sox down two.

Smith’s error marked the team’s Major League-leading 50th of the season, with 21 coming against teams .500 or better. Seven of the errors have come at the hands of a first baseman: Smith (four), Triston Casas (two) and Garrett Cooper (one).

Boston has committed 12 errors in its last 11 games, after making just one in its previous 10 games. With the loss on Tuesday, the Red Sox moved to 11-22 when committing at least one error.

“It’s tough. You gotta play clean baseball,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, tough play at the [first-base] line, not trying to get my arm knocked off, not trying to go on the injured list. So yeah, it’s very unfortunate. Something that I probably make more often than not. They score two runs, we had the opportunity to score back, we didn’t score, lost the ballgame and gotta come back tomorrow and play harder.”

Outside of the leadoff homer and a second solo shot to Schwarber in the fifth, Crawford showed signs of his dominant April self on Tuesday. He racked up a season-high eight strikeouts, generated 13 whiffs and walked just one batter after multi-walk games in six of his last seven starts.

As bright as Boston’s pitching has been this season (an MLB-fifth-best 3.38 ERA), the defense has been dim. While the rotation’s 3.32 ERA sits behind just the Phillies, Yankees and Orioles, the Red Sox have allowed an MLB-high 44 unearned runs, with the Cubs (43) and Mets (42) rounding out the top three.

The Red Sox have been plagued by injury for much of the season, forcing the team into putting out a myriad of defensive alignments. Reinforcements could be on the way soon, with infielder/outfielder Romy Gonzalez (left hamstring strain) expected to begin a rehab assignment on Wednesday and Casas (torn cartilage in rib cage) hoping to return as soon as June 21.

“I want to be elite,” Cora said. “The best defensive team in the big leagues, that’s what we’re striving for and that’s why we work so hard every single day out there. Regardless of [whether] it’s a Sunday day game or a Sunday night game.

“We’re gonna go out there and bust our [butt] and work hard at it. Sometimes, it’s gonna happen. Sometimes, it’s not gonna happen, but we’re going to work. We’re gonna work harder than in the past, and we’re going to keep working hard. That’s what we want to be.”