The Red Sox and Guardians had no interest in gumming up their Saturday night. In game two of a crucial three-game American League series, Cleveland and Boston swung aggressively and moved through nine innings inunder three hours.
Coherent, timely defense and pitching kept the Guardians tied down. Josh Winckowski twirled five and a third innings of two-run baseball against one of the hottest offenses in baseball and the bullpen made sure they didn’t score any further. The Red Sox have now firmly cooled off the red-hot Guardians, who had rocketed to the top of the standings with a recent hot streak. Boston confirmed that their own midsummer surge is no joke either by beating the AL Central-leading Cleveland Guardians 4-2 on Saturday evening.
Both offenses got off to quick starts but stifling starting pitching kept the game tethered to a nothing-nothing tie through two and a half innings. Neither team gained any ground until late in the third inning. After Steven Kwan walked, Amed Rosario tripled to center field and Jose Rameriez drove Rosario home with a sacrifice fly. Cleveland was up 2-0.
The Red Sox offense was relatively sleepy through the early innings. It put little pressure on the opposing defense as a whole as starting pitcher Josh Winckowski navigated around a two-run deficit.
Jarren Duran drove a doubled off of the left field wall in the top of the sixth to awaken the Cleveland defense and Boston offense, but also killed the very same rally by getting thrown out on the base paths. He was gunning for third base and came up well short.
It took more than five innings before the Martinez and Bogaerts collected a pair of base hits in the top of the sixth, creating a RISP opportunity for Alex Verdugo. Verdugo, who hadn’t homered since June 15, pulled a deep dinger to left field against the inward-blowing wind with two runners on. The 447-foot three-run bomb, although not followed up by any other offense, gave the Red Sox a leap-frog, 3-2 lead as the game shifted to the later innings.
Winckowski left in the sixth with a three-run lead. After he surrendered a one-out single, Alex Cora turned to Jake Deikman. He induced a ground ball, one that could have gone for a double play but Xander Bogaerts made an errant throw to first that broke it up. Still, Deikman got Owen Miller to pop out and end the threat.
Deikman created some trouble in the last half of the seventh by allowing a single to Oscar Gonzalez and walk to Austin Hedges. But even with runners on first and second and nobody out, a harmless flyout to center and strikeout of Kwan got Deikman to the end of his day. John Schrieber cleaned up the end of the seventh by fanning Rosario on an 0-2 breaking ball that fell way out of the reach of his bat.
The Sox applied pressure in the top of the eighth. Duran singled and stole second, then Devers singled on a 110-mph rocket past the middle of the defense to put runners on the corners with no one out. Cleveland reliever Trevor Stephan walked Martinez after working from down 0-2 to a full count, loading the bases, but the So came up empty. Twice, the Guardians took advantage of hard-hit ground balls to cut down runners at home and a Trevor Story strikeout ended the inning.
Matt Strahm took over in the bottom of the eighth on the mound for the Red Sox. He struck out Rameriez, got Gimenez to fly out and settled the frame by getting Owen Miller to pop out to shallow center field.
Guardians reliever Enyel De Los Santos issued a lead-off walk to Bobby Dalbec and it came around to bite him. Nine-hitter Kevin Plawecki doubled off of the left field wall to make it a second and third threat for the Sox. Duran singled and Dalbec scored easily from third and, even though pinch-runner Christian Arroyo was hosed at the plate, the Red Sox had pushed across a helpful insurance run to make it a 4-2 cushion.
In striking contrast to last night, Tanner Houck managed a calm ninth inning, collecting three outs in a row without issue to close out the crucial win.
With this victory, the Red Sox improve to 41-31 on the year and tighten their grip on an American League Wild Card spot. After cooling down the streaking Guardians, Boston has started a grueling stretch of games against high-caliber opponents in an ideal fashion. They have won the series against division leader Cleveland and look forward to a long run against Tampa Bay and the Yankees over these next few weeks.