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Red Sox 5, Indians 6: This. Team.

And I mean that in the exact opposite way as last year.

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

This 2019 Red Sox team has an uncanny ability to lose close games in unfathomably frustrating ways. Sure, they’ve lost plenty of blowouts this year and it’s not like a few breaks here or there would have changed the season, but there’s been a whole lot of games like Monday’s in Cleveland. That is to say, a whole lot of games where the starting pitcher faltered early only to recover, but after already digging the team into a hole. That is to say the offense getting big home runs and clutch hits....up until they didn’t. That is to say threatening in almost every inning but somehow still ending with a modest run total. That is to say tying a game dramatically in the top of the ninth only to allow a walk-off to the first batter in the bottom of the ninth. It’s our 2019 Red Sox, baby, and they’re all we’ve got.

The Red Sox needed a strong starting pitching performance from Eduardo Rodriguez on Monday. Not only because, well, good starting pitching performances make it a hell of a lot easier to win. On top of that simple fact there is the fact that the bullpen is straight-up toast right now. Boston got very little from their starters on Saturday and Sunday, and really since the deadline it’s been one short outing after another. Combine that with the fact that a bullpen game may very well be in their future on Wednesday and this was a team desperate for some innings.

Rodriguez did give the team a bit of length, though it wasn’t always pretty and for the early parts of the game it was more that Alex Cora had no other options than the southpaw deserving more outs. In this game in Cleveland, it didn’t take long for things to go south. After Boston’s offense went down in order on three very well-hit balls in the top of the first, Rodriguez did get two quick outs in the bottom of the first.

Then, well, he reverted into the old Eddie for a minute. After getting ahead 0-2 against Carlos Santana, he pulled an old trick by throwing four straight balls to issue the painful walk. As is so often to case, that would come back to bite him. New Indian Franmil Reyes got an 0-1 fastball up in the zone and the young slugger got all of it, sending it out over the wall in center field for a two-run shot. An inning into the game, it was 2-0 Cleveland.

The good news is the Red Sox offense didn’t take very long to get on the scoreboard. After hitting rockets in a 1-2-3 first against Zach Plesac, they continued to hit the ball hard with better luck in the second. J.D. Martinez got things started with a base hit into left field before Andrew Benintendi doubled out to left field. Martinez turned on the wheels here as Carlos Febles made a risky decision to wave him home, but it paid off as Martinez just barely got his hand in to cut Cleveland’s lead in half.

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

Rodriguez was far from perfect in the bottom of that inning as he allowed a single and a walk in front of Francisco Lindor with two outs. There was certainly potential for danger, but Rodriguez got a big ground out to escape the inning. He would not be so lucky in the third. With Cleveland still leading 2-1, the Indians got a pair of singles with one out to put two on for José Ramírez. After struggling mightily in the first half the star infielder has been on fire since the All-Star break, and that continued here. He ripped a 2-2 curveball at the bottom of the zone for a three-run shot. Just like that, it was a four-run lead for the home team.

After that homer, to his credit, Rodriguez did settle down in a big way. He certainly wasn’t perfect, but he kept runs off the board. In the fourth he worked around back-to-back singles to lead off the inning for a scoreless frame before coming back for another scoreless one in the fifth. He appeared to be in some trouble in the sixth when he allowed two on in front of Reyes with his pitch count up to 109, but he got a huge strikeout to finish the inning, and his night.

Now, it was up to the offense to chip away at this lead and work their way back into at least a tie. Leading that charge, as has been the case almost exclusively for the last week or two, was J.D. Martinez. He was the first man up in the fourth and he destroyed a solo homer to cut the deficit down to three. Later in the inning, with two outs, Mitch Moreland kept things going with a base hit before moving up on a wild pitch. Brock Holt then came through with a big hit after that, knocking in one more and pushing the score to 5-3.

Boston looked like it had a chance at even more in the fifth, too, starting with a Rafael Devers walk. That brought Xander Bogaerts to the plate, and he ripped a ball hard off the wall in left field. Ideally it would have led to two runners in scoring position and at the very least two on base. Instead, Bogaerts tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out, leaving just one on third with two outs. The Red Sox would not score in the inning.

In the seventh, the cut into the lead a little more with some of that sweet, sweet 2019 baseball action. By that I mean, well, Jackie Bradley Jr. led off the inning and went the other way with a ball that, while hit decently, was not exactly squared up. It just kept going, though, and eventually snuck over the wall in left field for a solo shot, bringing the Red Sox to within one.

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

That brought Darwinzon Hernandez into the game for the bottom half of the seventh with Rodriguez out of the game. He got off to a rough start, allowing a leadoff double to Ramírez. A bunt then moved the runner over to third with one out, but Hernandez escaped after that with a strikeout and a ground out. In a one-run game, it was incredibly impressive for the rookie.

In the eighth, the Red Sox got extremely close to tying this game up at the very least. It started with Martinez, who sent one out to deep right field but came about five feet short of a home run as Tyler Naquin leapt to make the catch for out number one. Benintendi then came through with a single, and with two outs Sam Travis entered the game as a pinch hitter for a huge double off Oliver Pérez. It was hit a little too hard for Benintendi to score from first, but it put a pair in scoring position for Brock Holt. As has been the case so often this year, they couldn’t get that last hit they needed with the inning ending on a line out to strand both runners and keep Cleveland up by a run.

After Hernandez and Marcus Walden combined for a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Boston had three more outs trailing by one. Mookie Betts got things going with a one-out walk against Brad Hand, and after Devers struck out it was left all up to Bogaerts. As he has so often this year, he came through. The shortstop hit a fly ball out to right field that just missed Naquin’s glove. Instead, it fell for a double with Betts coming all the way around to score from first and tie this game at five. That was all they’d get, but this game was extended.

It would not be extended very long. Despite having Brandon Workman warming up, Cora opted to leave Walden in for the ninth. Presumably, Workman was only up in case the Red Sox got a lead, an absurd way to manage with the middle of Cleveland’s order coming up. Sure enough, Santana led off the inning and he sent a walk off homer into the left field seats. What else can you do but laugh at this point?

The Red Sox will stick around in Cleveland for Tuesday as well for the second game of this series. They’ll have Chris Sale on the mound for this one to take on Mike Clevinger. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.