What to make of Kutter Crawford’s absurd outing vs. Rays

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Trevor Story’s nuke to right center was all the Red Sox needed to dispose of Tampa on Monday, and that’s in large part thanks to Kutter Crawford. The right-hander was dazzling in his return to the bigs, striking out eight while only surrendering two hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings of relief.

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Austin Davis and John Scheiber were the bookends in Boston’s 4-0 shutout win, which was Boston’s first shutout since June 12 vs. Seattle. And guess who pitched the bulk of that win vs. the Mariners? Yep, it was Crawford.

But as much as he’s been at the center of a few strong staff performances, both the Rays and Mariners are among the 15 MLB teams that have struggled against right-handed pitching this season. Still, five scoreless innings is nothing to scoff at, especially when it’s coming from a Red Sox reliever.

“I had pretty good command of all five of my pitches,” Crawford said. “Just going right at guys — whenever I fell behind in the count, got right back in it with a cutter or curveball. … Last couple outings, I started to figure something out mechanically that’s helped (with my control),”

Although winning against the team that entered the series one game behind you in the standings is pretty significant, the importance of Crawford’s performance goes beyond Monday’s result. Boston’s starting rotation is hurting right now, and at a time when the offense isn’t clobbering opposing pitchers like it did earlier in the season. The Red Sox need their staff to step up, but they’re running thin in that department right now.

Regardless of Tampa’s level of success against right-handed pitching this year, Crawford delivered when the Red Sox needed it. He still has to work for a regular spot on the staff when everyone is healthy, but he can be of significant service while Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Rich Hill heal. Keeping him in the bullpen and stretched out to some degree until those three are back seems to be the best course of action.

“I got a job to do when I’m called upon, that’s all I care about,” Crawford said. “Whenever they call my name, whatever they need me to do, I (will) come up here and compete and help the team win.”