Red Sox 6, Indians 3: Sox survive middle-innings meltdown, take series from Cleveland

Jason Miller

The Red Sox survived a middle-innings meltdown--the result of John Farrell's first major mistake of the year--with a strong offensive performance against Justin Masterson and a dominant showing from the bullpen.

The Red Sox survived a middle-innings meltdown from Alfredo Aceves, taking the series from the Cleveland Indians and advancing to 10-4 on the season with a 6-3 win Wednesday night.

Up against Justin Masterson, who had allowed just one run in his first 22 innings of work, the Boston lineup wasted no time at all quadrupling his ERA. Quite literally, in fact. Before an out was recorded, the Red Sox would bring three runs across, nickle-and-diming Masterson to death with four hits and a hit by pitch. Singles from Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava were the swings that did the damage, with Napoli one-hopping the infield and Nava going to the opposite field with a fastball high-and-outside.

From there, the Red Sox would start wasting chances. First stranding Napoli and Nava in the first, then failing to score despite loading the bases with zero outs in the second. Another bases loaded opportunity--this time starting with one out--would go by the wayside in the fourth, but to that point it wasn't a huge problem, since Alfredo Aceves was doing just fine, getting through the first four frames without allowing a run. All seemed well with the Sox adding on a fourth run in the fifth courtesy of a Mike Carp triple--his third extra-base hit of the night.

Then came the bottom half of the fifth, and the cracks started to appear. With Alfredo Aceves' pitch count rising, the Indians staged a dangerous two-out rally, with a single, double, and walk loading the bases. Asdrubal Cabrera very nearly cashed in, hitting a rocket to right field that seemed set to bring the Indians within one run. Shane Victorino, however, was already on his horse, and managed to run down the ball to save three runs and perhaps give the Red Sox their biggest defensive play of the year to date.*

The Sox would strike again in the sixth on hits from Victorino, Napoli, and Nava, but in the bottom of the inning is where things got really scary. Alfredo Aceves came back to the mound despite a difficult fifth, and what was really confusing was the lack of a replacement arm at the ready in the pen. The first batter walked, and that should have been it for Aceves. Instead, he was left out there to give up a long two-run shot to Nick Swisher.

And then a solo shot to Jason Giambi.

And a double to Mark Reynolds.

Finally John Farrell came out to bring Junichi Tazawa into the game, but by that point a 5-0 lead had shrunk to 5-3 with a runner on second and nobody out. Suddenly it was a very real game again. But that's where the bullpen took over. Junichi Tazawa entered the game, and gave up some hard contact to the first two batters. Luckily it resulted in a ground ball out and a fly ball that looked gone but stayed in for Jacoby Ellsbury to make the play on.

And, really, that's where the game ended, because that was the last show of weakness from Red Sox pitching. Tazawa did not simply lock down, he struck out the next four batters. The Indians would end up gifting the Sox a run in the top of the eighth thanks to a bloop and some bad defense, but it wouldn't matter as Tazawa handed the ball of to Uehara who handed it off to Bailey, both of them recording their own perfect innings with two strikeouts a piece.

It was not the blueprint game, but it was the blueprint final three innings for the bullpen. Add in a decent start from Aceves (who was frankly done a disservice by John Farrell in his first really bad flub as Boston's manager) and a strong performance offensively against Justin Masterson, and it was enough to earn the Red Sox a fourth series win, and their fifth straight victory.

Read more Red Sox:

*Not their best, however. That's still Jose Iglesias' claim for the moment.

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