Tyler O’Neill needs 8 stitches after collision, another error costs Red Sox

EditorLast Update :
Tyler O’Neill needs 8 stitches after collision, another error costs Red Sox

BOSTON — It began as a clean game with Ceddanne Rafaela starting at shortstop for the first time in his big-league career.

It ended in another mess, with a collision between two key players and some defensive reshuffling that led to more costly miscues.

The Red Sox defense — or lack thereof — wasted a strong effort from starter Kutter Crawford in a 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Guardians on Marathon Monday.

The Red Sox have now allowed 19 unearned runs and committed 17 errors. They led the majors in both categories as of the end of their game on Monday.

The teams battled through a scoreless tie for six innings before the Guardians took a 2-0 lead in the seventh on a two-out, two-run homer from pinch-hitter Will Brennan. Following that home run, Cleveland’s Estevan Florial hit a pop fly to shallow left field and the game took an even worse turn for Boston.

Rafael Devers, back in the lineup after sitting out the previous four games with shoulder soreness, backpedaled for the ball. Tyler O’Neill in left field charged forward for it and the two collided, head-to-head, going down hard for several minutes. Eventually both players got up under the supervision of several team trainers and manager Alex Cora and walked off under their own power.

Devers was shaken but stayed in the game. O’Neill, who had a towel to his head, exited the game, needing eight stitches for a gash above his left eye. He was undergoing concussion protocols after the game. Cora expected Devers to be back in the lineup Tuesday, but O’Neill will need to be cleared by the medical staff before returning to games.

“As a ballplayer on the field, I think that’s the worst play in baseball,” Crawford said. “You’ve got the infielder running back on a blooper and you’ve got the outfielder running in hard on the blooper. It’s tough to watch. You don’t want to see two of your teammates (collide) and lay on the ground.”

With O’Neill out, the Red Sox were forced to do some defensive maneuvering. Rafaela moved to center field with Jarren Duran to left and David Hamilton entered the game at shortstop. The very next inning it proved costly.

With two on and two out, José Ramírez hit a hard liner that deflected off Triston Casas’ glove into right field. Wilyer Abreu fired to second base as Ramírez tried to advance. Abreu’s one-hop throw came on time, but clanged off Hamilton’s glove, the ball trickling away, allowing a second run to score, making it 4-0.

“It sucks,” Cora said of a clean game ruined by another costly error. “You have to make plays, it’s frustrating for everybody. But at the same time, you cannot get down on them trying to make plays. Tip a ball, it goes 25 feet. (Ramírez is) one of the best players in the game, makes a hustle (play), plays the game the right way, we don’t make the play. We just got to get better.”

It was all the more frustrating given the Red Sox had played error-free baseball two straight games over the weekend, recording wins in both games, and had started Monday’s game with solid defense.

In the first inning, Abreu made a running catch just in front of the bullpen wall to save a potential home run for Crawford. Abreu made another heads-up play in the third, backing up Duran in center on a ball that took a wild carom off the top of the scoreboard for a triple.

“(Abreu) keeps the runner at third, if not, it’s an inside the park homer,” Cora said. “On the other Ramírez one, that was a good throw to second base. Long hop and we didn’t make the play at second.”

As the errors pile up, the Red Sox need to decide how much more they can endure.

Cora insisted before the game that Rafaela starting at shortstop was a way to keep Abreu’s bat in the lineup against a right-handed starter. But the more miscues Hamilton commits at short makes it harder for Cora to justify keeping him in the field. Cora has had a long leash with rookies in the past. Duran and Casas proved him right, but he also gave Bobby Dalbec significant playing time after uneven results.

Cora wouldn’t specify how much more playing time at shortstop that Rafaela would have, but did say the versatile fielder will see more time at short.

“He played well, no panic, just makes the routine plays,” Cora said of Rafaela at shortstop.

Meanwhile, despite a lack of offensive production, Rafaela hit three deep fly outs, indicating he’s inching closer with his timing at the plate.

The offense, in general, did not have anything to show for their efforts on Monday, wasting Crawford’s performance.

The right-hander allowed just two hits while striking out six over 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He became the only pitcher in Red Sox history, excluding openers, to allow one or fewer runs and three or fewer hits in each of his first four starts.

(Photo of O’Neill (left) and Devers (right) immediately following their collision in short left field: Jaiden Tripi / Getty Images)