Crawford in the zone against rival team

July 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

NEW YORK -- Rafael Devers stole the stage at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night with a two-homer performance that carried the Red Sox to a 3-0 victory over their rivals.

However, what shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle is the striking efficiency of that was every bit as vital for Boston.

While the two bombs Devers drilled in the Bronx seemed to be par for the course for a star slugger who just loves to torment the Yankees, the stat line put up by Crawford is one you might not see again soon.

Over seven scoreless innings, Crawford threw just 68 pitches (54 strikes). It looked like Crawford was on his way to the second “Maddux” of the season for the Red Sox, throwing fewer than 10 pitches per inning.

A “Maddux” is a shutout on fewer than 100 pitches, which Tanner Houck did on April 17 against the Guardians when he threw a three-hitter on 94 pitches in a game that took just one hour and 49 minutes.

But Crawford didn’t get the chance to go the distance because manager Alex Cora took him out after seven innings, when Boston was in possession of a 2-0 lead heading to the bottom of the eighth.

“Obviously efficient, but I thought that was good enough,” said Cora. “The last two innings, he had to grind with it, and we were lined up with [Justin Slaten] and Kenley [Jansen]. Imagine if I sent him back out for the eighth and somebody got on and you bring in the reliever. I’d rather bring in the reliever with the clean inning.”

Fair enough, but that didn’t mean Crawford had to like it.

“I wanted more,” said Crawford, who recorded 21 outs in a start for just the second time in his career.

Over the first five innings, Crawford made just 40 pitches (34 strikes). That total by Boston’s righty was the fewest pitches in a start of at least five innings by any Major Leaguer since the Pirates' Iván Nova threw 38 through five on May 30, 2017.

“He pounded the strike zone. It was amazing and with good stuff, too,” said Cora. “At one point, I looked up and it was [only] six balls, and he just kept attacking a good lineup.”

“Yeah, I think that's probably the most efficient I've ever been,” Crawford said. “I think a year or two ago, I probably would have thrown 30 or 40 pitches in one inning. But it feels good to throw a lot of strikes and get a lot of early outs like that.”

Crawford was the definition of a pitcher in the “zone.” And in this case, that zone was the strike zone, which he lived in for most of the night.

“I felt like I had good feel of every pitch and I was executing cutters away, cutters in, splits over the plate. The fastball command was pretty good. It felt good,” said Crawford. “It’s one of those outings where you feel like everything’s kind of working for you.”

The numbers illustrate just how well things were working for Crawford. His 79.4 percent strike percentage was the best in the Major Leagues this season in any start of seven innings or more.

Crawford became just the third pitcher since 2008 to complete at least seven innings on 68 pitches or fewer, joining the A's Sean Manaea in '20 and the Pirates' Joe Musgrove in '18.

Since 2000, Crawford is the only pitcher who produced a line of at least seven innings, 68 pitches or fewer and a strike percentage of 79 percent or greater.