What a wild game. Chris Sale was great, and then he wasn’t. He also became the fastest player (by innings) to 2000 strikeouts. Rafael Devers made some bad mistakes in the field and on the bases. He also went 6-6 with four doubles. Through it all, after the Red Sox opened an early lead the Indians kept crawling back until they tied it against Brandon Workman in the ninth. A questionable stolen base attempt foiled their chance to walk it off there, and then Jackie Bradley Jr. gave Boston their lead back in the tenth. Then, to top it all off, Andrew Cashner got the save. I’m not sure what I typed is real, but I’m pretty sure it is.
After his last start, it was understandable to get excited about Chris Sale again. He looked like the prime, healthy version of the Red Sox ace that has electrified Fenway Park (and road parks) so often since coming to the team. Of course, it was also understandable to be wary of buying in given how often both he and this team have let us down after brief moments of excitement this year. If he was really back, he was going to need to prove it on Tuesday on the road against a talented and red-hot lineup. Folks, I think he might be back.
Chris Sale was once again electric in this game, showing off his patented fastball/slider combination en route to a whole lot more strikeouts including one that put him in the history books. It was clear right from the very beginning, too, that it was going to be a special kinda night. Sale got to work right away on Tuesday, striking out each of the first three batters he faced on just 13 pitches to get through a perfect first.
The dominance only continued from there. He got through a perfect second inning as well that included his fourth strikeout of the game and his 1999th of his incredible career. He was now just one K away from number 2000, and assuming he got it in this game he would be the quickest to reach that milestone in baseball history.
He made history in the following inning. The third did include his first bit of trouble before that, though, when Sale allowed back-to-back two-out singles giving Cleveland their first scoring chance of the night. That brought Oscar Mercado to the plate, and Sale delivered. He got the Indians outfielder swinging on a slider for number 2000, which also happened to get him out of the inning unscathed.
After that milestone strikeout, Sale did suffer his first blemish of the evening. Of course, it was Carlos Santana who was responsible as the Indians first baseman has been on a tear all year but particularly of late. He was the guy who sent Cleveland home with a victory on Monday, and this time around he got a first-pitch fastball right over the middle of the plate. It was Sale’s worth pitch of the night and he made it to the wrong guy, as Santana sent it flying out to left field for a solo shot.
Instead of letting it snowball, Sale got right back to it. He struck out the next three batters he faced to finish off the fourth before striking out two in a 1-2-3 fifth.
On the other end, the Red Sox offense had a challenge ahead of them with Mike Clevinger on the mound. The young righty doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves partially because he missed a big chunk of time early this year and partially because he’s always pitched in a loaded rotation. There’s a ton of talent in his arm, though, and he has the potential to shut down any lineup in the game.
For this night, the Red Sox were not having that. Mookie Betts set the tone right away when he smacked a ball off the wall in left field for a leadoff triple. Rafael Devers came up and started a big night with a double to bring a run home and put Boston up 1-0 just two batters into the game. They weren’t able to get any more across in that one, though.
They would add to their lead in the second with some help from the bottom of the lineup. Marco Hernandez, who got the start at second base for this one, started the rally with a one-out single and Sandy León followed it up with a walk. Betts would eventually come to the plate with two on and two out and he came through with a base hit to bring home a run. Unfortunately, León tried to do too much and got himself cut down at third base to end the inning, but the Red Sox did have a 2-0 lead.
After a couple quiet innings, and with Cleveland cutting the lead in half in the fourth, Boston got back to work in the fifth. It was Devers kicking things off this time when he smacked a leadoff double and J.D. Martinez would later put runners on the corners with a base hit. They did get to two outs, but in breaking form from so many similar situations this year they got a couple of big two-out hits. Mitch Moreland and Hernandez each contributed singles to bring home one run each and Boston was up three at the end of the inning.
They kept the offense coming in the sixth, too, with more timely hitting. At this point former Red Sox minor leaguer Josh Smith (not to be confused with current Red Sox minor leaguer Josh Smith) was in the game, and he was wild to start this inning. The southpaw hit Jackie Bradley Jr. with a pitch before walking Betts to put the first two batters of the inning on base. That brought Devers to the plate and drove both runners in with his fourth hit and third double of the night, and just like that it was a 6-1 lead.
Sale couldn’t quite keep the dominance up for his last couple of innings, though. He came back in for the sixth with his team now up by five but he gave a couple of those runs right back. After getting a couple of quick outs the southpaw issued a walk to Santana, and Franmil Reyes made him pay for that. The new Indians slugger got a first-pitch fastball in the same zone as Santana’s homer with the same result, getting Cleveland to within three.
The seventh would bring on more issues for Sale as well. In this frame he started the inning with a walk to Roberto Pérez, and after a strike out Greg Allen hit a potential double play ball to third base. At the very least it should have been one out, but instead Devers failed to get in front of the ball and it went into left-field for a two-base error that left two runners in scoring position with just one out. He got a pop out for the second out of the inning, but then Francisco Lindor drove in both with a double.
That ended Sale’s night, and Matt Barnes was called in with the tying run in scoring position. The righty got weak contact against Mercado, but it was too weak and he just barely beat it out for an infield single. That put runners on the corners with two outs for the dangerous Santana. Barnes came through with a huge strikeout, though, and the Red Sox held a narrow lead heading into the eighth.
After the Red Sox got two on with one out in the eighth but failed to score thanks to an inning-ending double play, Barnes was back out for the bottom of the inning. He issued a leadoff walk to Reyes and that ended his night, with Josh Taylor coming in. He got the first out of the inning on a ground out, but it also pushed the tying run to scoring position.
Taylor would only face the one batter, with Alex Cora calling upon Nathan Eovaldi, who had been scheduled to start on Thursday. He came through in the big spot, getting a strikeout and a ground out. The Red Sox still led after eight.
The offense was shut down in a 1-2-3 ninth, bringing on Brandon Workman to try and protect the one-run lead. The righty allowed a leadoff single to Greg Allen, who then immediately stole second to put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. Workman came back with a big strikeout of Tyler Naquin, but that brought Francisco Lindor to the plate. The shortstop came through, doubling home the tying run. He made a major mistake after that getting caught stealing third, though, and we eventually headed to extras.
It didn’t take a long time for the Red Sox to get their lead back, fortunately. After Christian Vázquez battled through a long plate appearance that ended with a strike out, Jackie Bradley Jr. launched a solo homer out to right field. Just like that, Boston was back out in front.
That brought Andrew Cashner on to try and get the save in his first relief appearance. Santana started the bottom half of the tenth with a leadoff single, but then for some strange reason Mike Freeman tried to drop a sacrifice bunt. Not only was it an awful decision against a struggling pitcher, but it was also a terrible bunt pushed far too hard at Moreland. Santana was cut down at second base for the first out. Cashner followed that up with a big strikeout of José Ramírez for the second out and got one more strikeout to end the inning, and the game. What a wild ride that was.
The Red Sox and Indians have one more game in this series with the rubber match being held on Wednesday. First pitch for that one will be at 1:05 PM ET.