When the Red Sox announced Michael Wacha to start against the Rays for the Fourth of July game at Fenway, many reasonably expected a good pitching performance. Wacha has been outstanding in his first year with the Sox, compiling a 6-1 record with a 2.69 ERA after 13 starts. Bringing Wacha to the Sox this off-season was a big win for Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom’s front office. They swooped in to sign Wacha after the Rays passed on bringing him back for a second season. In 2021, Wacha was 3-5 for Tampa Bay with a 5.05 ERA. Bloom’s team saw potential and they were right.
And while Red Sox pitching was outstanding on Monday, it wasn’t Wacha who on the mound. Manager Alex Cora had told the press the day before that the 30-year-old righty was experiencing a “tied arm” and that he might be scratched from Monday’s start. That came to pass and the Sox opened instead with Austin Davis, who provided two no-hit innings, followed by Kutter Crawford, for what turned out to be a stellar outing.
5+ shutout innings
Expectations for the 26-year-old rookie were likely tempered by Crawford’s most recent outings. At Triple-A in 2022, he has gone 1-0 with a 5.18 ERA after six games (four starts) for the WooSox. His 11 outings for the Major League team in 2022 have been mostly a mixed bag, with several good relief appearances, but also some tough starts, like his last against the Cardinals where Crawford allowed four runs over four innings.
More troubling, perhaps, was that Crawford would be facing a resurgent Tampa Bay team that arrived at Fenway having scored 24 runs on 41 hits, including eight home runs, over their last three games. The 24 runs were their most over any three-game span since scoring 24 last September against the Red Sox at Fenway.
But Crawford was unfazed. When all was said and done, he had pitched 5.1 shutout innings with just two hits and a walk allowed to go with eight strikeouts. He joined Chris Sale (2017), Rich Hill (2015), and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez (2000 and 2002) as the only Red Sox pitchers ever to do that against the Rays.
To finish the game, lights-out reliever John Schreiber allowed nothing over 1.2 innings.
Monday’s was the just 10th of 425 all-time meetings between these clubs in which the Red Sox limited the Rays to just two hits, and the first such game at Fenway Park since April 27, 2002 in a 10-0 home team win.
Crawford is just the 19th Red Sox pitcher in franchise history to allow no more than two hits, one or no walks, and zero earned runs while striking out eight in an outing of at least 5.1 IP. He’s the first with such a game against a division rival since Sale on June 30, 2018 against the Yankees.
Over his eight seasons in Boston, Hall of Famer Cy Young recorded just three such games. Roger Clemens also had three; Sale has had four, and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez did it a club-record eight times. Martinez, who has 10 such career appearances, is one of just four MLB pitchers in history with that many such games (also Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, 12; Max Scherzer, 11; and Clayton Kershaw, 11).
Crawford is the just the fourth ever with such a game in relief for Boston (and 21st in Major League history). The others with such a game for the Red Sox are Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle (1968), two-time All-Star Dick Radatz (1963), and Norwood Gibson (1903).