Kutter Crawford has emerged as a jack of all trades for the Boston Red Sox, who continue their three-game series against the host Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday.
Crawford has pitched primarily out of the bullpen this season, but the 27-year-old right-hander also has proven to be a capable starter. Crawford (1-2, 3.48 ERA) will make his second straight start and fourth of the season when he takes the mound against the Guardians.
Boston opened the series with a 5-4 victory on Tuesday behind seven strong innings from James Paxton, who allowed two runs and matched his season high with nine strikeouts.
Boston trailed 2-1 before moving ahead with four runs in the eighth inning. Masataka Yoshida had three hits for the Red Sox, who snapped a three-game losing skid.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora isn't expecting a long outing by Crawford, who allowed one run on two hits with three strikeouts over three innings against the Tampa Bay Rays last Saturday.
"You have to be careful with his health," Cora said. "He just pitched three innings on Saturday. He gets three days. He's pitching tomorrow. If we push him forward then how is he going to bounce back? He's very important for us, regardless of the role. He's a guy that's been great throughout the season. So, we have to be careful and keep him healthy."
Crawford is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three career games (two starts) against Cleveland, which struck out 12 times in Tuesday's loss and went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
The Guardians will turn to right-hander Tanner Bibee (1-1, 3.20), who allowed three runs and six hits over five innings in a no-decision against the Minnesota Twins last Thursday.
Bibee, 24, has made a strong impression in his first seven major league starts, posting a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 1/3 innings.
"Everything has slowed down," Bibee said. "I wouldn't say the adrenaline isn't there. I'm just more comfortable."
Boston is 12-5 in its last 17 games against Cleveland, which battled back with two runs in the bottom of the eighth on Tuesday before coming up short.
"We have the ability to come back in those games," Guardians right fielder Will Brennan said. "We've proven that. That's why we play three games in a series. We have a chance to even it up tomorrow and get 'em the next day."
Brennan went 3-for-4 on Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He is 14-for-25 (.560) during that stretch. Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor is also on a hot streak, going 11-for-22 (.500) over his last six games.
Boston is hoping to build on a much-needed comeback victory after losing 10 of its previous 14 games before Tuesday. Utilityman Rob Refsnyder delivered the go-ahead RBI single in Tuesday's victory and is 12-for-28 with six RBIs during his career-high eight-game hitting streak.
Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers said the team remains positive about its postseason chances.
"There's still a lot of baseball to play," Devers said. "There's still (101) games remaining. We know how baseball is. There's ups and downs. We know that we're capable of winning games, and that's one of the things that we're going to focus on in the next few weeks."
--Field Level Media