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Balk another part of a rough start for Red Sox rookie Kutter Crawford

Red Sox starting pitcher Kutter Crawford (3-4) absorbed the 13-5 loss in Kansas City, allowing five runs on five hits over five innings, including a three-run home run by Royals rookie catcher MJ Melendez in the fifth inning.Ed Zurga/Getty

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Red Sox recalled rookie righthander Kutter Crawford from Triple A Worcester on July 4. He was 2-1 with a 2.38 earned run average in the next six games he pitched, securing a place in the rotation.

That came crashing down on Sunday. Crawford’s first balk in the majors contributed to his allowing five runs over five innings in a 13-5 loss against the Kansas City Royals.

In a scoreless game, Michael Massey doubled leading off the third inning for Kansas City. With one out and Massey on third, Crawford hit Kyle Isbel with a cutter. A ground ball could have gotten him out of the inning. But Crawford stepped toward third and threw. Rafael Devers was well off the bag and had to lunge for the ball. A balk was called.


Massey scored and Isbel was awarded second. MJ Melendez then singled to drive in Isbel.

Third base umpire Junior Valentine told Sox manager Alex Cora he called the balk because Devers was so far off the bag. Crew chief Bill Welke later told Crawford that Devers needed to be in tagging distance.

A bigger issue was the first-pitch curveball Crawford hung to Melendez that he crushed for a three-run homer in the fifth inning.

“They were coming out swinging early,” Crawford said. “He put a good swing on it.”

Crawford (3-4) allowed a season-high five runs over five innings.

“I did some pretty good things today. I threw a pretty good splitter, so that’s come along,” he said. “Little bump in the road, we’re going to learn from it and keep working.”

The Sox plan to start lefthander Rich Hill and righthander Nick Pivetta in the series against the Atlanta Braves that starts Tuesday. Righthander Josh Winckowski has the lockout makeup game against Baltimore on Thursday night.


Nate Eovaldi is scheduled to face the Yankees on Friday. Crawford would slot in on Saturday with Michael Wacha possible for Sunday depending on the results of his minor league rehabilitation game on Tuesday.

Caution with Schreiber

Righthanded reliever John Schreiber has been a revelation this season, posting a 1.90 earned run average over 41 appearances and 42⅔ innings.

But he seems to be getting worn down.

Schreiber was on the mound in the seventh inning when Jarren Duran lost a popup in the sun. That wasn’t his fault, but the next batter, Isbel, hammered a high fastball to the gap in right that Duran nearly caught and went for a triple.

Melendez followed with a 108-mile-per-hour liner that Duran dove to catch and Schreiber was taken out of the game.

He has given up five runs on 10 hits over 10 innings in his last eight appearances.

Counting seven appearances in Triple A early in the season, Schreiber has worked 55 innings. His high as a professional was 79⅓ innings in 2019 and the Sox have 52 games remaining.

“It’s been good. But we’ve got to be careful. Usage is getting up there,” Cora said. “I don’t want to say he’s struggling, but fastball command has been off the last week. It would be good for other guys to step up.”

Schreiber has gotten four or more outs in four of his last six outings.

Left turn

The Sox opened the season with three lefties in the bullpen — Austin Davis, Jake Diekman, and Matt Strahm. Now, with Diekman having been traded and Strahm on the injured list, they have Davis and Darwinzon Hernandez.


It’s not working well. Davis has allowed 11 earned runs on 13 hits over 8⅓ innings in his last eight appearances.

Austin Davis struggled again Sunday against the Royals.Colin E. Braley/Associated Press

Hernandez has been even worse. He entered Sunday’s game in the eighth inning and walked the first three batters he faced on 17 pitches. Then came a two-run single and another walk.

In his last three outings, Hernandez has allowed 13 earned runs on 11 hits and seven walks over 3⅓ innings.

“He needs to get better,” Cora said. “He did a good job in Triple A and right now these are the two lefties that we have. They have to keep working.”

Cora said the Sox would “mix and match” if a lefthander was needed to face two tough lefthanded hitters in a row. He mentioned righthander Hirokazu Sawamura as a possibility in that situation.

“There’s nobody like, ‘This is a guy that is going to get lefties out,’ It all depends who the hitter is,” Cora said.

Catching on

Reese McGuire is 5 of 11 in three games since being obtained from the White Sox on Aug. 1 for Diekman . . . The Sox are 2-5 at Kauffman Stadium the last two seasons. The Sox were 6-0 from 2018-19 . . . Tommy Pham’s two-run homer in the seventh inning was his first since June 30. That ended the second-longest drought of his career.

Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.