This game wasn’t a must-win for the Red Sox, but with a loss on Tuesday Boston was in danger of dropping three of four in this series with Corey Kluber taking the mound for the bad guys on Wednesday. The Red Sox were turning to Doug Fister, who didn’t exactly inspire the most confidence heading into the game. As it turned out, Fister was more than fine as he completely shut down the Indians lineup and helped the Red Sox cruise to an easy victory.
Fister’s performance in this game was huge for the Red Sox, and really huge for his role the rest of the season. After his last outing against Cleveland — a total dud — it was reasonable to believe he was turning back into a pumpkin and it was time for the Red Sox to move on from him in their rotation. This was the time for the quick-working righty to prove that he still had some solid starts left in the tank, and he came through in convincing fashion. Fister’s command was phenomenal and it even got him a few strikeouts on some nasty two-seam fastballs that broke right back over the glove-side corner of the plate. More importantly, the two-seamer was working well enough to get him a ground ball pretty much whenever he needed it.
Things actually got off to a pretty bad start for the righty, and off the bat it looked like it was going to be another long day and an early appearance out of the bullpen for the recently recalled Hector Velazquez. Against his first batter of the day, Fister left a curveball in the zone and Francisco Lindor was all over it. The Indians shortstop launched it to the front seats in right field for his first career leadoff home run.
From there, Fister turned into an absolute machine. He was working extremely quickly and just setting down Cleveland hitter after Cleveland hitter. He walked one more batter in the first inning before getting out while still only allowing the one run on Lindor’s dinger. After that, it was cruise control. He allowed baserunners in the third and the fifth, but was able to induce a double play in each of those frames. In all, he faced the minimum number of Indians hitters from the second inning through the rest of the game with the only hit he allowed to that point in the game being the home run from Lindor.
In the end, it was one of the most impressive outings we’ve seen from a Red Sox pitcher this year, which is wild for a team that employs Chris Sale. After that home run, Fister recorded 27 outs without allowing a hit. I think he might get another start this season.
Meanwhile, the offense put together another strong performance against Carlos Carrasco. It wasn’t quite as convincing as the beatdown they put on Cleveland’s righty earlier in the month, but it was certainly good enough against a very good pitcher. Most importantly, they got a few runs early to give Fister a little bit of breathing room — but not much -- before starting to pull away at the end of Carrasco’s night.
The Red Sox actually got on the board first, as Andrew Benintendi reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and was driven in on a single from Hanley Ramirez in the first inning. It was another instance of smart, well-timed baserunning paying off. Obviously, Boston’s baserunning hasn’t always been smart or well-timed. After Lindor’s home run tied the game at one, the Red Sox came right back in the second and scored after Xander Bogaerts led off with a double and was eventually knocked in on a sacrifice fly.
After this, Carrasco settled down in a big way. The Red Sox got him right around 40 pitches through the first two innings, but he became much more efficient after that and it looked like Boston would need Fister to keep up his performance all night if they were going to leave with a victory. The Red Sox did get one insurance run in the fifth, though, on a home run from Jackie Bradley.
Then, in the seventh, they started to take a more commanding grip on this game. With Carrasco seemingly cruising aside from the Bradley home run, the Red Sox put his run through the middle inning to a screeching halt in this inning. This rally started with Sandy Leon getting hit by a pitch which was followed by a Bradley single to put two on for Eduardo Nuñez. The infielder, who has been struggling mightily of late, came through with a big swing to launch one off the wall in right field to score both runs. The one negative to come out of this was that Bradley made an awkward slide to get in safely at the plate, and came up shaking his hand. He was removed from the game in the bottom half of the inning. Before that, Benintendi came through with a double of his own to score another run and give the Red Sox a 6-1 lead. This was a big inning at the time as it gave Fister a bit of a longer leash and allowed them to further rest the bullpen. They’d continue to add on in the eighth on a three-run home run from Nuñez, giving him five RBI on the day.
So, the Red Sox maintained their 4.5-game lead in the division and left open the chance that they could win yet another series in this great month of August. This was all about Doug Fister, but don’t sleep on the offense playing so well against someone like Carrasco. They have an enormous test against Kluber tomorrow night, but they’ve shown recently that they are better equipped for such a test than they were earlier in the year. They’ll have Drew Pomeranz on the hill to counter Cleveland’s ace.