The Indians completed their sweep of the Boston Red Sox
Wednesday night Thursday morning in a game which pretty much has to confirm what many had expected after losing Tuesday: the winning streak is long gone, and the bad times are back in earnest in Boston.
It's not a simple matter of losing. Of course, the fact that the Red Sox come away from this series without so much as a consolation prize victory is what allows everything else about this game to be quite so terrible, but it is not by itself the source of all the negativity.
We start instead with the start time. The Red Sox and Indians were determined to get this game in, it seems, leaving fans waiting nearly two-and-a-half hours just to get the first pitch in. Effectively, we ended up with an unexpected West Coast game on our plates. And oh, yes, it would end up going 12 innings, the game finally ending some seven hours after it was initially scheduled to start.
So what Red Sox team did fans spend roughly a third of their day on? The same close-but-no-cigar group that lost 10 straight games in May.
Up against stiff competition in Corey Kluber, Brandon Workman was actually at his best. He allowed a relatively cheap run in the first inning on a pair of singles, then locked in to pitch through the end of the fifth without allowing another. To that point, this was by far the best of Workman's three starts.
Kluber, however, was more than giving him a run for his money. After working out of trouble in the second inning, the breakout righty had given the Red Sox few real scoring opportunities, deftly working around a leadoff walk to David Ortiz in the fourth. He would start off the sixth by hitting Xander Bogaerts in the elbow, however, and Dustin Pedroia made hard contact behind him, albeit for an out to right field. Still, Kluber was unravelling, and David Ortiz was up to bat. A 93 MPH fastball that caught too much of the plate was all it would take to end Cleveland's lead, Boston's DH admiring his work as the ball sailed inexorably into the right field stands for a two-run shot.
As was so often the case during their 10-game losing streak, Boston's lead was fleeting at best. In the bottom of the inning, Workman would allow a leadoff walk to Asdrubal Cabrera, with A.J. Pierzynski getting himself tossed in the process by arguing calls with home plate umpire Quinn Walcott. Michael Brantley followed up with a line drive single, and even with just 85 pitches on his arm, Workman's night was suddenly over.
John Farrell would turn to Chris Capuano hoping for a key escape act. Instead, Capuano provided him with three straight singles. Boston's 2-1 lead became a 4-2 deficit before a single out was in the books in the bottom of the sixth, with only a pair of key grounders keeping the score as close as that.
Still, the Red Sox had some fight left in them. In the very next inning, a leadoff Stephen Drew walk and Daniel Nava single set the stage for Brock Holt to tie the game with a two-run single.
The problem is that we've been here before. During Boston's winning streak, this inning may have been the one that signaled a dramatic turnaround. During the losing streak, though, the Red Sox made multiple late rallies on the road only to set up the more dramatic, painful loss in the end. That, of course, would be the case tonight. With Boston's linuep going back into hibernation, their best scoring opportunities had already come and gone. The Sox would not manage so much as a runner in scoring position over the last four innings, meaning it was just a matter of finding the weak spot in Boston's bullpen.
That would come after Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara held out for three frames, leaving Edward Mujica to take the closer's place. A pair of one-out singles left Mujica trying to walk a tightrope on the mound, but the eventual final blow was no simple sacrifice fly or well-placed ground ball. Instead, Mujica offered up a hanging splitter to Asdrubal Cabrera, almost asking him to end the night. Cabrera obliged with a walkoff line drive that would have been plenty good to get the run home even if it hadn't cleared the fence in right for a three-run homer.
So it was that Boston's hot streak was doused completely and utterly over three miserable nights in Cleveland. The seven-game winning streak seems as far in the past as the 10-game losing streak did four days ago. It's an impressive feat, frankly, to create a situation where it's impossible to put a positive spin on a span of games that includes seven straight wins. But these 2014 Red Sox have found a way, including it in a 20-game stretch that would put them on pace to finish dead last in Major League Baseball.