This should calm people down a bit. After dropping the first two games of this series in pretty rough fashion, the Red Sox were able to come back and get a win in a game that seemed to point the advantage towards Cleveland in the pitching matchup. Brian Johnson was....fine-ish, and the bullpen was mostly good outside a home run given up by Heath Hembree. It was the offense that was the real story, though, as they broke out of a mini funk in a big way. They hit three homers on the night, including two from Xander Bogaerts, and plated nine runs all together. They needed a break through like this, and hopefully it can carry into Thursday’s game to salvage a split.
Well, this was a rollercoaster of a game, so we’ll just get started right away. Obviously, the mood around Fenway (at least in the stands) was about as low as it’s been all year, and the early parts of this contest did not help ease the tension. Brian Johnson got the start on Wednesday, and while he has been mostly solid all year he had also gotten hit around some in his previous few outings. Given that and the fact that the Red Sox were coming off three straight losses, we were hoping for a quick first inning for the lefty. We did not get it.
Cleveland’s top part of their lineup is immensely talented, though Red Sox starters have done a good job keeping them at bay to start the first two games of this series. Johnson didn’t have as much luck, though he had another All-Star caliber hitter added to the mix. That top of the first started with Francisco Lindor smacking a groundrule double into right field. Johnson did get a couple of outs after that, and it seemed he might escape the jam. Instead, the new addition to the lineup — Edwin Encarnacion, who was activated from the DL prior to the game — did damage. Johnson left a fastball belt-high on the outer half, and the slugger got all of it, sending it into the Monster Seats for a two-run shot. Cleveland had a two-run advantage before the Red Sox had a chance to bat.
With Boston going up against a red-hot Carlos Carrasco, it seemed like a tall task to keep up with a streaking Indians offense with a clear disadvantage on the mound. However, Boston’s offense was able to get a bit going early on. They got some help from the Indians defense, though, as Erik González made a big error to let Andrew Benintendi reach with one out. After he got to second on a ground out and third on a wild pitch, J.D. Martinez knocked him in with a single to cut the deficit in half. It was all they’d get there, but it was something.
The good news is, Johnson settled in a bit after that. He retired the side in order in the second and worked around a two-out double in the third. The fourth presented a little more trouble when he hit a batter then allowed a single, both with one out, but two strikeouts ended the inning with Cleveland still having two runs on the scoreboard.
On the other side of things, however, Carrasco was also settling in. In the second he retired the Sox in order, and in the third he allowed just an infield single. In the fourth, things would change. After a leadoff strikeout, Xander Bogaerts walked to the plate and quickly knotted the game up at two. Carrasco threw him a curveball in the bottom of the zone, and Bogaerts went down and got it, sending it over everything in left field.
The rally would only continue from there, as Boston’s hitters suddenly became very aggressive on Carrasco. They were jumping on pitches early in the count, and it led to three consecutive singles, putting them up one. After a walk loaded the bases, Andrew Benintendi had a huge chance with the bases loaded and two outs. He didn’t squander it, sending a double into left field that cleared the bases, and suddenly the Red Sox had a 6-2 lead. The Red Sox would load the bases again after that, but when Bogaerts came back around he couldn’t cash in this time. Still, it was a four-run lead.
Now, it was up to the pitching to be able to keep that momentum, but Johnson wasn’t super up to the task. He walked the first batter he saw on four pitches, and after getting the Brantley out in the next at bat he was lifted from the game. As he so often does with runners on base, Alex Cora turned to Heath Hembree. He got Jose Ramirez to start his appearance, but he couldn’t get out of the inning unscathed. Once again, it was Encarnacion. This time, Hembree threw a fastball up and in, but the slugger somehow turned it around and sent it to the Monster Seats for another two-run shot. Suddenly, the lead was down to two. Hembree would get out of the inning after that.
After the Red Sox went down in the bottom of the fifth and Brandon Workman tossed a scoreless sixth — with some help from a great throw courtesy of Jackie Bradley Jr. — Boston got back to work in the bottom half of the inning. It started with Bradley, who stole a double in the top half and smacked a double to lead off the bottom half. It seemed the Red Sox may strand him there after that, but Mitch Moreland had different ideas. With two strikes on him, the first baseman got a fastball that caught too much of the plate and he sent it into the Indians bullpen and just like that the lead was back up to four.
Matt Barnes would get the call in the seventh — the 9-1-2 hitters were due up, so don’t read into this as a demotion — and tossed an easy 1-2-3 frame. In the bottom half, the inning led off with Bogaerts and he did it again. This time he got a sinker that stayed in the upper-half of the zone and he went oppo taco, putting it in the bullpens and the Red Sox had a 9-4 lead after seven.
The eighth belonged to Joe Kelly with a five-run lead, and he didn’t look great but still avoided damage. It seemed he’d allow the first two batters to reach, but Edwin Encarnacion was thrown out at first despite some bad defense because he took a weird stutter-step before hitting the bag. Moreland stole extra bases on a line drive for the second out before Kelly walked the next batter to put runners on the corners with two outs, but he’d strike out Yan Gomes to strand the runners.
The Red Sox were able to extend the lead to six thanks to another Martinez RBI in the eighth, and Ryan Brasier came on for the ninth. He got Cleveland in order, and the Red Sox locked up the victory.
So, after dropping the first two games of this series, the Red Sox have a chance to turn things around and salvage a split. To do so they’ll have a quick turnaround with a day game on Thursday. Boston will send David Price to the mound to take on Adam Plutko. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.
As for the division, well, add this to the reasons to be happy. The Red Sox got a win and the Yankees are currently trailing the Marlins by six in the ninth. If that score holds, the Red Sox will get that division lead back up to nine.