This was a frustrating game, as it trended in the wrong direction more and more as the game went on. Early on, it was all Red Sox and everything was looking good. The offense was making Corey Kluber work and doing damage on him, jumping out to an early 3-0 lead. On the other side, Rick Porcello was cruising through the early parts of the game. Kluber settled in, though, and Porcello started to leave some pitches over the plate. Just like that, the script was flipped and Boston dropped their second in a row.
Rick Porcello had been alternating good starts and bad starts over this recent stretch of the season, and heading into Monday’s outing he was due for a bad one. Obviously, things don’t work as cleanly as that, but the trends combined with Cleveland’s talented roster brought some justified apprehension. Well, the 2016 Cy Young award winner eased those fears quickly and early on he looked just about as good as he has all year. The righty had all of his offerings working, and he was commanding the edge of the zone. Things would get worse as the game went on, though, and his night went from great, to fine, to bad.
The first inning really told the entire story for what kind of night it was going to be for Porcello. That top-third of the Indians order is really scary, and he was being put threw the ringer right off the bat. Well, he struck out Francisco Lindor on three pitches to start it off. Then, he got Michael Brantley to weakly ground out. Finally, he got potential AL MVP Jose Ramirez to strike out on three pitches. Ten pitches. Two strikeouts. Three outs. Not too shabby.
The second wasn’t quite as clean as that first frame, and Porcello had to work around some issues. After getting a very quick first out, the Indians got their first runner in the form of a Yonder Alonso single. Melky Cabrera followed with a single of his own right after that, and suddenly Cleveland had two on with just one out. Porcello settled in from there, though, getting Jason Kipnis to strike out and — after allowing both runners to advance a base on a very wild pitch — getting Yan Gomes to do the same. The runners were stranded and the shutout was preserved.
Porcello then came out and cruised through the next couple of innings, retiring all six batters he saw in the third and fourth innings. That run included a pair of strikeouts and two more quiet outs from Lindor and Ramirez.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense had a tough test on their hands, going up against one of the very best pitchers in baseball just a day after getting shut out by the Rays. With the way Porcello looked in the first, this game had the looks of a fast-moving pitcher’s duel. Corey Kluber didn’t change that perception to start off the first inning, either, when he kicked things off by striking out both Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi. With two outs, however, the Sox got to work. Mitch Moreland poked a single into left field, then J.D. Martinez pushed a double on the ground into the right-field corner. With a pair in scoring position, Xander Bogaerts was able to handle a nasty slider down and away and drop it into center field for a two-run single. Ian Kinsler would be robbed of extra bases in the next at bat to end the inning, but it was two runs (and 27 pitches) against Kluber in the first. That’ll do.
In the second, the Red Sox once again had a tough start to the inning as their first two batters went down without much of a threat. However, they were able to work some two-out magic yet again. This time, it was Jackie Bradley Jr. starting things off with a double into left-center field, and Betts following it up with a single. Benintendi then knocked a liner into left field, and the Red Sox had their third run of the game. It was quite the start against the perennial Cy Young contender, and the Red Sox had a 3-0 lead after two.
After that, Kluber would settle in a bit, though Boston did still make him work at least a little. He did get a very quick 1-2-3 third, but then the fourth started off with a leadoff single from Brock Holt. However, that was quickly wiped out when a failed hit-and-run resulted in a caught stealing. Bradley would reach on another single, but that was all for the inning.
Still, the score remained 3-0 heading into the fifth inning. That score would change very quickly in that frame, though. Cabrera, who has hit Porcello very well throughout his career, started that one off with a bang. He got a fastball that stayed right in the heart of the zone, and the outfielder demolished it into the Red Sox bullpen to cut the lead down to two.
The righty got three outs after that to keep the lead at 3-1, but he’d falter more in the sixth. After the Red Sox managed just a walk in the bottom half of the fifth, the Indians had the top of their order coming up in the sixth. Porcello had kept them at bay all night, but that ended here. Lindor started things off with an infield single as he beat Porcello in a footrace to the bag — Porcello was a beat late in breaking to the bag and it made all the difference — after Moreland made a stab behind the first base bag. That would be big, because in the next at bat Brantley got a flat cutter and hit a home run of his own. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, it was tied up at three.
Boston’s offense would go scoreless again in the sixth, and Porcello was back out for the seventh. He’d issue a one-out walk to Kipnis, and then Gomes hit a liner right back up the middle. It nailed Porcello in the chest/ab area, and while he was able to get up and get the out at second he looked shaken up. Still, he threw some warm-up pitches and convinced the trainers he was fine, so they let him stay in to face Greg Allen, the number nine hitter. That wouldn’t work out so well, as the outfielder hit one into the Cleveland bullpen, and just like that the Indians had a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.
So, the Red Sox had to start their comeback attempt in the seventh, and once again they tried to do so with a two-out rally. After Kluber got Betts for the first out and Oliver Perez got Benintendi for number two, Moreland was able to get on with a walk. Then Adam Cimber was brought in to face Martinez, who smacked a single into right field. That brought Xander Bogaerts up with runners on the corners and two outs, but he’d ground out and the two-run deficit would stand.
After Tyler Thornburg pitched around a leadoff single for a scoreless eighth, the Red Sox had six more outs to get a rally going and score at least two more runs. After Kinsler led off with a strikeout, Eduardo Núñez came in to pinch hit against new pitcher Brad Hand. He would fly out, leaving it up to Steve Pearce in another pinch hitting attempt, and he’d get to second on a bloop double that just barely made it out of the infield. Bradley couldn’t take advantage, though, and he’d strike out to end the inning.
Drew Pomeranz came through with a scoreless top of the ninth, and the Red Sox had the top of the order coming up in their last chance in the top of the ninth against Cody Allen. Betts got things off to a good start by ripping a double into the left field corner to lead it off. Andrew Benintendi would work a walk after that, and after a fielder’s choice Martinez came up with runners on the corners and one out. He’d pop out, leaving it all up to Bogaerts. The shortstop got one run in on a soft infield single down towards third base, putting the tying run on second for Kinsler. He put up a tough at bat, but ultimately hit a routine fly ball to left field to end a tough game for the Red Sox.
So, the Red Sox got off on the wrong foot in this series but they still have a chance to win this four-game set if they take the next three. They’ll start that quest Tuesday night with Nathan Eovaldi taking on Shane Bieber. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.
As for the division, the Yankees were off today so the Red Sox dropped a half-game in the standings. The lead now stands at an even nine games.