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Red Sox 3, Indians 2: Welcome back to competitive August baseball

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After being absent from this for a couple years, it’s fun to be so nervous during August baseball games again.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, that wasn’t nerve-wracking at all. Nope. Not one bit.

This game started off looking a lot like many of the frustrating ones that came in the team’s post-All-Star Game run. They got a strong start from their starter, in this case Drew Pomeranz, but the offense couldn’t come through against a pitcher they should pound. The frustration started to creep in as early as the third, when Dustin Pedroia knocked a single with Travis Shaw on first. The latter was sent home thanks to some aggressive decision-making from Brian Butterfield and was out by approximately 600 feet.

The trend continued the very next inning when David Ortiz wiped out a leadoff single from Xander Bogaerts with a double play. That was followed up by back-to-back singles from Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, which obviously would’ve resulted in a run without the double play. To make matters worse, the inning ended when Aaron Hill was robbed when a quick-reacting Josh Tomlin on the mound snatched a rocketed liner. Then, immediately following this, Rajai Davis led off the fourth by hitting a home run off Drew Pomeranz. It was Cleveland’s first hit of the game. This 100 percent felt like yet another hair-pulling loss.

But then, a weird thing happened. The Red Sox started buckling down and got out of some jams of their own. Pomeranz allowed a couple more base runners in that fourth inning, but no one else crossed the plate. He was able to hold them to that one run heading into the top of the sixth, when the offense finally came through. With Pedroia on first, Ortiz made up for his double play by demolishing a home run to right field and giving Boston a 2-1 lead. Just two batters later, Jackie Bradley would hit a solo shot of his own to give the good guys a two-run cushion.

From there, it was relatively smooth sailing until the bottom of the eighth. Pomeranz had cruised through the game with a low pitch count, so he was rewarded by coming back out in the inning. He did record two outs in the frame, but he also allowed two doubles and Cleveland was back within one. At that point, with Jose Ramirez coming up — and I should mention this is the switch-hitting Jose Ramirez with no career splits to speak of — John Farrell inexplicably went with Fernando Abad over Brad Ziegler with a runner on second and two outs. To be fair, it all worked out as Abad got out of it and the Red Sox preserved their lead.

After a top of the ninth in which Boston threatened to plate a couple more but once again couldn’t come through, it was all in Craig Kimbrel’s hands. And what a classic 2016 Kimbrel outing it was. It started off with a double and a walk, making everyone doubt this would end well. That is until Kimbrel turned back into Kimbrel and blew Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis away for the first two outs. The final at bat was a tough one, and included a ~450 foot foul ball, but ended with a game-ending pop up and a Red Sox win.

This wasn’t the prettiest Red Sox wins, but there were plenty of positives to take away. For one thing, Drew Pomeranz not only came through with a strong outing, but he also pitched into the eighth inning. It’s debatable whether or not he should’ve been out there in the first place, but that he was given a chance speaks to how much he’s turned it around after a rough first impression in Boston. Then, there’s Kimbrel coming through with a huge save, even if it got off to a rocky start. Combine that with a couple of timely home runs from Ortiz and Bradley, and baby you got a stew goin’.

Above all else, how much fun is it that the Red Sox are playing in meaningful August baseball games? After you bite off all of you fingernails, that is. Let’s hope they can continue this four-game winning streak as they head to Baltimore for a short two-game affair.