The Cleveland Indians used a big three-run third inning, powered by three solo homers off of Boston’s Rick Porcello, to take Game 1 of the American League Division Series by a 5-4 final on Thursday night.
Playoff baseball returned to the shores of Lake Erie for the first time since 2013 and for the first time in a playoff series format since hosting the Red Sox in the ALCS back in 2007. The game lived up to all of the hype and expectations that a postseason game should have.
Trevor Bauer got the Game 1 start for the Indians, who opted to give staff ace Corey Kluber a little more rest in his recovery from his right quad strain that ended his regular season early. While Bauer did not last long in the game, he was able to hand the contest over to a bullpen that was up to the task of shutting down a high-powered Boston lineup.
The Red Sox jumped out to an early lead and nearly had more as the big first inning some feared from Bauer nearly happened. Dustin Pedroia doubled to right to start the game and advanced to third on a single from Brock Holt. A strikeout of Mookie Betts and a foul out from David Ortiz had Bauer on the verge of escaping the first frame unharmed, but Hanley Ramirez doubled to center. Pedroia scored easily, but a strong relay from Tyler Naquin to Francisco Lindor to catcher Roberto Perez cut down Holt attempting to score from first, after replay review, giving Boston just a 1-0 lead.
Porcello hit the first batter of the bottom half, Carlos Santana, before striking out the side. The Indians performed much better in their next trip to the plate, however, as they evened up the score. Jose Ramirez doubled to right-center and scored on a single by Lonnie Chisenhall to tie the game at 1-1.
A new game, Boston reclaimed the lead off of Bauer with its first batter of the third as rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi homered to right-center to put the Red Sox back on top, 2-1.
The bottom half of the third proved to be a turning point in the night for the Tribe as a big offensive contribution from a fairly unlikely source knotted the game back up at two. Perez worked the count full against Porcello before taking the Red Sox starter deep to right to make it a 2-2 game. The Indians were not done though, as one out later Jason Kipnis sent a souvenir into the seats in front of the bullpen to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead. The next batter, Lindor, followed with a homer to right and the Tribe had a 4-2 edge.
Bauer worked around a one-out double from Ramirez in the fourth, getting a pair of strikeouts to end the inning, but the Red Sox cut into their deficit the next time up with a leadoff homer from catcher Sandy Leon to make it a 4-3 ball game. Bauer would leave the mound two batters later after retiring both and Andrew Miller dodged a threat after a double and a walk by striking out Ortiz swinging.
The Indians responded in the fifth and drove the 22-game winner Porcello from the game. Perez singled to left before Santana flied out, but the slow footed Indians catcher alertly tagged and moved to second on the fly to left. Drew Pomeranz entered in relief, but Kipnis singled to knock in Perez to make it a 5-3 game. Cleveland loaded the bases on a ground rule double by Mike Napoli and an intentional walk by Ramirez, but the struggles with ducks on the pond continued for the Tribe as Chisenhall went down swinging to end the inning.
Miller retired the side in order in the sixth and got the first two batters of the seventh before giving the ball to Bryan Shaw, who got Pedroia to ground to first for the final out of the inning. Holt struck a big blow to lead off the top of the eighth though with a solo homer to cut the Cleveland lead back down to one.
After a pop up to the mound, Shaw was lifted for Cody Allen, who was tasked with the job of getting a five-out save. He accomplished the feat, but not before a double by Ortiz put the tying run on second in the eighth. Ortiz’s pinch-runner moved to third, but Allen left him stranded. He got all three outs in the ninth on strikeouts swinging, allowing just a two-out single to Benintendi before the checked-swing called strike three on Pedroia to end it.
The Indians (1-0) are now 18-3 this season when hitting three or more homers in a game.
MORE ON BAUER
Bauer left with a lead, but did not leave in a position to earn a win after exiting with four and two-thirds innings of work on the night. He allowed three runs on six hits, did not issue a walk, and struck out six. While he left Cleveland’s bullpen in a spot to maintain the lead, he also threw just 78 pitches on the night (52 for strikes), leaving him in a good spot to return on short rest to throw in Game 4, if necessary.
PORCELLO POUNDED BY LONG BALL
Porcello took the loss and was hurt by the three home runs given up in the third inning. He lasted just one out into the fifth, giving up five runs on six hits with six strikeouts. Like Bauer, he did not issue a walk.
Indians manager Terry Francona seems intent on rewriting the unwritten rules to proper bullpen usage. He went to his All-Star left-hander Miller in the fifth inning at a key point in the ball game, then proceeded to use him for six outs spread out over three different innings. He walked one and allowed a hit, with both coming against the first two batters that he faced. He threw 40 pitches, but shared after the game that he intends on being available on Friday.
Shaw allowed a solo homer in two-thirds of an inning of work. Allen earned his first career postseason save with a five-out effort, one in which he struck out four batters and allowed two hits while also firing 40 pitches, putting the Indians bullpen in an interesting situation in the event of a close contest on Friday afternoon.
The two teams combined to allow just one walk each in the game. Pomeranz walked one in two and one-third innings of relief of Porcello, while Miller walked the second batter that he faced in the fifth.
HOME RUN FACTS
The homer by Perez came in his first career postseason at bat. He had two hits and scored two runs on the night.
Lindor became the second youngest player in Indians history to homer in the postseason (Asdrubal Cabrera – 2007).
The two teams will return to the Progressive Field playing surface for a 4:38 PM ET first pitch on Friday afternoon.
Kluber will make his return from a right quad injury that caused him to miss his final start of the regular season. The 30-year-old was 8-1 in the final two months of the season in eleven starts. He is 2-3 in his career against Boston in nine games with a 4.78 ERA and 1.22 WHIP and was 1-1 in 2016 with a 4.38 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in two starts. Left-hander David Price will take the ball for Boston manager John Farrell. He will be in search of his first career postseason win in a starting role after going 0-7 in his first eight playoff starts. The 31-year-old and fellow former Cy Young winner is 10-2 in his career against Cleveland with a 2.24 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, which includes six innings of two-run ball in a win this season.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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We sure owe the Red Sox. Their fans and media are insufferable. They think that even if they lose the 2nd game they will kill Josh Tomlin and Trever Bauer in Boston and win the fifth in Cleveland. I wonder if Josh Tomlin thinks that Boston will crush him in Boston?