Red Sox injury woes continue as Wilyer Abreu becomes 17th player to land on the IL

BOSTON — On Sunday, Wilyer Abreu tripped while coming down the dugout steps.

That’s how the latest Boston Red Sox player landed on the injured list.

In a season where the Red Sox have had so many injury issues, it still felt foreboding when Abreu dismissed the severity of his ankle injury after Sunday’s game. Two days later, prior to an 8-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves, the Red Sox announced Abreu had a right ankle sprain and was headed to the IL. Abreu is the 17th different Red Sox player to land on the IL — adding up to 20 IL stints. Catcher Tyler Heineman was recalled to fill Abreu’s spot.

The loss of Abreu stings just like all the others. In the midst of a strong first full season, he’s been a leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year, hitting .272 with an .829 OPS through 53 games while playing standout defense in right field.

With every injury, manager Alex Cora has maintained the club just needs to keep moving on despite the hardships.

“We can’t stop now,” Cora said. “We’ve been good. We’ve been bad. We’ve been OK. But we can’t stop. I’m not going to stop. That’s the message to everybody.”

With Abreu out and Vaughn Grissom and Romy Gonzalez landing back on the IL over the weekend with hamstring strains, the active roster is thin. Tyler O’Neill is nearing a return from a knee injury after a rehab stint in Triple-A Worcester on Tuesday. He could be activated Wednesday or Thursday when the team heads to Chicago. Masataka Yoshida, who’s been out since May 1, is expected to begin a rehab assignment this weekend. Triston Casas is still not swinging a bat. But in the meantime, the Red Sox pieced together a lineup for the first of two games against the Braves.

Bobby Dalbec played right field for the first time in his MLB career (he’s played 15 Triple-A games in right this season). Jamie Westbrook started his first big-league game, playing second and batting fifth. Garrett Cooper served as designated hitter.

“We’ve got a weird lineup today with guys playing in different spots,” Cora said before the game. “There’s no excuses. Not feeling sorry for the group. We’ve been through this s—t for two years. We have to turn the page. We have to be better than that. And we’re doing that.”

Even with an unorthodox lineup, the Red Sox managed to put up three runs against one the National League’s best starters in Max Fried. But Fried also struck out a career-high 13 and the Braves, in the midst of their own slump, overpowered the Red Sox while Red Sox starter Kutter Crawford faltered again.

Crawford finished with six runs allowed, four earned, over six innings of work. He’s now given up six, five and four earned runs, respectively, in his last three starts. After beginning the year with an 0.66 ERA in his first five starts, he’s posted a 5.17 ERA over his last eight.

But the Red Sox defense — which has been better of late — let Crawford down early. In the second, typically sure-handed Dom Smith committed two costly errors at first base. Matt Olson reached to lead off the inning after Smith couldn’t handle a ball hit his way. Ozzie Albies followed with a double and then Smith made another error when he dropped a catch on a throw from Westbrook at second allowing two runs to score.

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Crawford has struggled over his last eight starts. (Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

“I think it cost us the game,” Smith said. “Playing a good team over there, got to play clean baseball. I won’t say you have to play perfect baseball, but pretty much perfect. We weren’t able to do that. A lot of it was because of the two errors. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in and it’s very frustrating when stuff like that happens.”

Smith partially made up for the pair of errors with a solo homer off Fried in the third inning for the Red Sox’s first hit of the game.

And in the fourth, the Red Sox’s piecemeal lineup made Fried look human for a bit. A one-out walk to Connor Wong followed by a Rafael Devers single and a catcher’s interference with Westbrook at the plate loaded the bases. Cooper struck out but Dalbec sliced a single to right to plate two runs, giving the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.

But Crawford couldn’t hold the lead as the Braves tied it back up the following inning when he gave up a leadoff double to Jarred Kelenic and Sean Murphy hit a run-scoring single to tie the game.

A leadoff walk in the sixth inning proved costly for Crawford. Then Marcell Ozuna smoked a hard hit single to third that Devers knocked down, leaving two runners on base. After a pop up, Albies crushed a three-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen, knocking the wind out of the Red Sox. Atlanta added runs in the seventh and ninth to seal it.

Atlanta has long been a juggernaut but is coming off a month in which it finished 13-14, their first losing record in any month since May 2022. They’d scored two or fewer runs in 10 games and were 0-14 in May when opponents scored three or more runs. If there were the time to take advantage of them, it would be now. But the Red Sox are scuffling too much and Abreu’s injury is just the latest.

“There’s no excuses,” Refsnyder said. “Everybody gets hurt on different teams and it’s just part of this part of it. So we just have to figure out how to grind through it and win a game tomorrow hopefully.”

(Top photo of Abreu: Brian Fluharty / Getty Images)

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