BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox managed to salvage the final game of their opening series against the New York Yankees on Sunday night. Boston avoided a season-opening sweep in the Bronx thanks in large part to its bullpen.

Yes, the biggest question mark surrounding the team heading into the season saved the weekend for Boston. After starter Tanner Houck struggled to find the plate for three-plus innings and was pulled in the fourth, the bullpen put up zeros the rest of the way to get the Red Sox their first win of the season.

READ MORE: Vince Wilfork voted into Patriots Hall Of Fame

Alex Cora got 5.2 innings of scoreless ball out of his bullpen, with Kutter Crawford earning his first Major League win and Jake Diekman notching his first save in a Boston uniform. Ryan Brasier, Matt Strahm and Hansel Robles also contributed to the victory.

Brasier got the first crack at the Yankees lineup, inheriting a pair of runners from Houck in the bottom of the fourth. Both of them scored to tie the game at 3-3 when Brasier surrendered a two-run single to Anthony Rizzo, but he got Aaron Judge to ground into an inning-ending double play to end New York’s threat. Both of those runs were charged to Houck.

Crawford came in for Boston in the fifth, and though he got himself into a bit of a jam with runners on second and third and only one out, he worked his way out of the mess. The righty got Aaron Hicks to foul out to third on a 3-1 pitch for the inning’s second out, and ended the frame by striking out shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Both batters were fittingly retired on Crawford’s cutter.

After earning a spot on the Opening Day roster following an impressive spring, Crawford was tagged with the loss Friday when he gave up the game-winning run in the 11th inning. That outing lasted just three pitches, with Donaldson sending home the ghost runner to win it for New York.

Earning his first career win Sunday night was much sweeter for Crawford.

“It was a pretty awesome moment. You know, to do it in Yankee Stadium, Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and Sunday Night Baseball, it’s really special,” said Crawford, who added that he got the lineup card from his first career win as a souvenir.

READ MORE: Patrice Bergeron named finalist for Selke Award for 11th straight season

He got the win thanks to a Bobby Dalbec solo shot that gave Boston a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth. Crawford came back out and put another zero in the bottom of the inning, working around a one-out single to Josh Donaldson. He struck out Rizzo on three pitches and Judge on five to end the frame.

Cora sent Crawford back out to start the bottom of the seventh, but lifted the righty after he gave up a leadoff single to Giancarlo Stanton. Strahm came in and quickly shut down the Yankees, retiring Joey Gallo, Gleyber Torres and Hicks on just 12 pitches.

Robles got the bottom of the eighth for Boston, and worked around a leadoff walk that he issued to Kiner-Falefa. The righty got back-to-back lineouts from DJ LeMahieu and Donaldson, before getting Rizzo to pop out about 10 feet in front of home plate on just one pitch.

With Robles needing just 15 pitches to retire the Yankees in the eighth, Cora could have turned to him to shut the door in the ninth. But the manager decided to go with the lefty Diekman against the heart of the New York order, which worked out perfectly for Boston. After winning an 11-pitch battle with Judge, fanning him on a 94 MPH fastball, Diekman struck out Stanton and Gallo, each on four pitches, to seal the win. It was the 15th career save for the 11-year veteran.

With no true closer at his disposal, Cora is going to have to play mix and match with the bullpen for a while, if not the entire season. It worked out perfectly for the Red Sox on Sunday night, and the bullpen overall was on point during Boston’s opening series.

Red Sox relievers allowed just one earned run — given up by Garrett Whitlock on Opening Day — over 13 innings to start the 2022 season. The group has given up nine hits and issued four walks, but it has also struck out 15 batters to start the year.

MORE NEWS: A Tom Brady Roast is coming to Netflix

Maybe the bullpen isn’t such a big concern after all.

CBSBoston.com Staff