Refsnyder leads Red Sox to rare late comeback over Rangers

For too much of this season, the stars haven’t aligned for the Red Sox.

When their pitching is on, their hitting is off. When their lineup is hot, it’s often because their pitching is ice cold.

But on Monday night in Texas, the Red Sox managed to pitch and hit, and as a result, overcame an early deficit and snapped their four-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Rangers.

Kutter Crawford’s excellent night was bookended by trouble, but he was able to work his way out of both jams with minimal damage. The series opener’s starter began the bottom of the first by giving up a first-pitch leadoff home run to Marcus Semien, putting Boston in an immediate 1-0 hole. The Red Sox entered the series 26-52 when opponents score first, so the early deficit didn’t bode well for their starter or the game’s outcome.

But after a one-out single in the first, the 27-year-old right-hander settled down and retired the next 14 batters en route to a quality start. In front of a crowd that included former President George W. Bush, Crawford pitched four perfect frames, including a four-pitch fourth inning, before allowing another Ranger to reach base.

“Kutter’s been throwing the ball so well,” Rob Refsnyder told NESN’s Jahmai Webster. “He’s been so consistent. We love it when Kutter’s on the mound. The guy works his tail off.”

For the fourth time this season, Crawford got through six full innings. He exited charged with two earned runs on four hits, with seven strikeouts, and zero walks. His performance extended the rotation’s streak to nine consecutive games in which one of the team’s starting pitchers allowed three earned runs or fewer.

“He was really good,” Alex Cora told reporters. “He was able to elevate his fastball, expand with the slider, the cutter was good. He gave us six strong innings, and the bullpen did the rest.”

If only they’d gotten starts like these a month ago.

“That’s what we need,” Cora said. “We need these kids to keep pushing to go deeper into the games. The 4 ⅔ , the 4 ⅓ (innings) over and over again, at this level it’s hard to win ball games on a consistent basis, and they understand that, and they’re working hard to get over the hump.”

The lineup is also working to get over their own hump, and after a long weekend of leaving runners on base in Toronto, they had a better night in the Lone Star State.

Early on, it seemed like the same old struggle. While videos of Kyle Schwarber’s 45th home run of the Phillies’ season, a cool 483-footer, filled social media, his former team continued leaving runners on base. Entering the eighth inning, the Red Sox were out-hitting the Rangers 5-4, but were 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position and had left three men on base, and thus trailed 2-1.

The top of the eighth began like so many of their innings lately. The Red Sox put their first two runners on base – Luis Urías led off with a walk and Connor Wong doubled – then began the arduous process of trying to actually bring a run across the plate. Past precedent – a 6-66 record when trailing after seven innings – didn’t inspire confidence.

Luckily for the visiting team, the home team’s bullpen is a mess lately. After striking out birthday boy Ceddanne Rafaela (23 years old), Rangers reliever Will Smith intentionally walked Rafael Devers to load the bases. Who can blame him? Devers is one of three American Leaguers with double-digit intentional walks, had received AL Player of the Week honors just hours before, is hitting over .350 this month, and already had two hits in the game.

For some reason, Rangers manager Bruce Bochy opted not to bring in a right-hander to face Refsnyder, who absolutely dominates lefties. Since the start of 2022, the Southpaw Slayer’s .426 on-base percentage and .330 batting average rank fourth and six in the Majors, respectively (minimum 200 plate appearances).

Refsnyder’s single brought Urías and Wong around to score, putting Boston on top 3-2, their first lead of the game. According to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, it was the first time a Red Sox hitter turned a deficit into a lead in the eighth inning or later since July 30.

Refsnyder admitted that he was surprised Bochy didn’t put a righty in for him. “I was just trying to see the ball… I was a little too aggressive with curveballs down in the zone today, so just trying to get ‘em up, and was fortunate to come through.”

Bochy then made a pitching change, but that didn’t stop Adam Duvall from scoring Devers with a sacrifice fly to increase their lead to 4-2.

Boston’s bullpen held down the fort for the last third of the night. Josh Winckowski, Garrett Whitlock, and Chris Martin each took an inning in that order, and limited the Rangers to one hit (Martin), two walks (Winckowski), and struck out five.

With Kenley Jansen still on the Covid-related injured list until later this week, Martin was in the save situation. His shutout ninth inning clinched the game, earned him the save, and lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.07, the second-lowest season ERA ever by a Red Sox pitcher (minimum 50 games).

At this point, it would take a miracle for the Red Sox to grab one of their league’s three Wild Cards. Now 75-76 on the season, they’re 7 ½ games back and five away from elimination.

Still, it’s fun to mess with Texas.

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