The Cleveland Indians have cornered the Boston Red Sox, who find themselves with their backs against the wall after their best two pitchers have thrown in the first two games of the American League Division Series.
If there is a bright spot for the Red Sox, the series has shifted to Fenway Park, where the club was 47-34 during the 2016 season, one game better than their efforts on the road. Cleveland struggled at times on the road, but finished the season with a 41-39 record away from home. The Red Sox were 4-2 against the Indians during the regular season, outscoring them 31-18 in the process, but they are in a deep hole in the ALDS after two losses while their high-powered offense has been outperformed, 11-4.
This is not the first time that the Indians have had the Red Sox down 2-0 in a series. The first time the two teams met in the ALDS in 1995, the Indians won the first two games of the series at home before completing the sweep at Fenway Park to advance to the ALCS against Seattle. The third time the teams met in postseason play in 1999, the Indians again took each of the first two games at home for an early lead. In that circumstance, the Red Sox rebounded and won both games at home before ousting Cleveland at Jacobs Field in Game 5 to move on to an ALCS matchup with the New York Yankees, the eventual World Series champions.
GAME TIMES AND PITCHING PROBABLES
Thursday, 10/6/16 – Cleveland 5, Boston 4
Friday, 10/7/16 – Cleveland 6, Boston 0
Sunday, 10/9/16 (4:00 PM ET in BOS) – RHP Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40 ERA) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (8-10, 4.78)
Monday, 10/10/16* (6:00 PM ET in BOS) – RHP Trevor Bauer (0-0, 5.79 in ALDS) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.71)
Wednesday, 10/12/16* (6:00 PM ET in CLE) – RHP Corey Kluber (1-0, 0.00 in ALDS) vs. TBD
TV (all games) – TBS; CNN en Espanol
Radio (all games) – Indians Radio Network; WEEI 93.7 FM, ESPN Radio (Boston)
A FAMILIAR FOE
The matchup between Tomlin and Buchholz will bring back to the forefront a long rivalry dating back to their time with Angelina College, a junior college in their home state of Texas. Both were attempting to win the starting shortstop job there, with Tomlin getting the nod and Buchholz ultimately relocating to right field.
Buchholz would eventually become a first round pick in the 2005 draft. Tomlin took his career to Texas Tech University and was selected in the 19th round by the Indians the following season.
Tomlin will once again be standing in Buchholz’s way, with the Red Sox’s season at stake.
MORE ON BUCHHOLZ
The 32-year-old and ten-year veteran Buchholz started the season in the Boston rotation, but after a 2-5 record and 6.35 ERA in his first ten starts, he was moved into the bullpen.
He made five appearances and put up more respectable numbers, holding opposing hitters to a .182 average over nine and one-third innings and returned to the rotation, but he was dealt three losses in three games while allowing a 6.14 ERA and .321 batting average against over 14 2/3 innings and once again landed back in the bullpen. He was again better in a relief capacity, putting up similar numbers before another look in the rotation. His results in that stint in August were more positive, as he went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and .241 batting average against in 16 2/3 innings, but manager John Farrell once again returned him to the bullpen for his final three appearances in August.
He moved back in to the rotation in September, making five starts to close out the season with a 3-0 record and 3.14 ERA. He made four quality starts and allowed just one hit in his final start of the regular season in six innings against the Yankees.
Buchholz has faced the Indians seven times in the regular season, going 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA and 1.20 WHIP lifetime. He made his first starts against them since 2012 this season, going 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA and 1.80 WHIP. He struck out seven, walked seven, and allowed nine runs (eight earned) in ten innings.
TRIBE AGAINST BUCHHOLZ
Current members of the Indians roster have hit a combined .255 with a .351 on-base percentage against Buchholz in their careers. Several of the most successful hitters are the usual suspects in the Cleveland batting order.
Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis are each 4-for-8 (.500) against him with a pile of extra base hits. Santana has two doubles, a homer, and four RBI against him, while Kipnis has a double and homer with four RBI of his own. Santana owns a career .636 OBP against the Red Sox right-hander, while Kipnis has a healthy .600 mark.
Jose Ramirez has two hits and two RBI in six career plate appearances. Coco Crisp has hit .278 against him (5-for-18) with a homer and five RBI. Rajai Davis has four singles and four walks in 23 career plate appearances off of Buchholz.
MORE ON TOMLIN
The struggles of Tomlin throughout the season were well documented. He got off to an incredible start, continuing the strong numbers that he ended the 2015 season with. In ten starts in his return from injury, he put forth a 7-2 win-loss contribution with an 0.84 WHIP.
He went 9-2 in his first 16 starts of the 2016 season prior to the All-Star break with a 3.51 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, which included a perfect 3-0 record in April, a 4-1 mark in six May starts, and a 2-0 effort with a 2.60 ERA in five games in June.
After going 2-1 in his final July starts, he ran into a wall in August, going 0-5 in six starts with an 11.48 ERA and 1.95 WHIP. The month was marred by the long ball, as he gave up ten of the 36 he allowed on the season in that span. After being removed briefly from the rotation and working one game in relief, he returned to a starting role and was highly effective again, posting a 2-1 record in his final five appearances of the season with a 1.69 ERA and 0.79 WHIP.
He faced the Red Sox just once during 2016, taking a loss despite working a quality start in the game. He lasted seven and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Two of the hits allowed left the yard.
The 31-year-old is 2-3 in his career against Boston with a 5.49 ERA in seven games (six starts) with a 1.32 WHIP. He has shown far more success against the Sox in recent years, with many of his numbers inflated by his first four appearances against them.
SOX AGAINST TOMLIN
Tomlin has limited members of the Red Sox playoff roster to a .222 average and .241 on-base percentage throughout his career, dating back to 2010.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has been the best of the bunch, going 3-for-7 (.429) with a solo homer. Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt are each 2-for-6 (.333) with four singles combined between them. Dustin Pedroia is a .294 hitter against Tomlin with five hits, all of which have been singles.
David Ortiz has been all or nothing against Tomlin in 18 career plate appearances, the most on the Red Sox roster. He has three hits – all for home runs – while driving in six. His six RBI account for all but one RBI hit by the members of the Boston postseason squad off of Tomlin in their respective careers.
GAME 4, IF NECESSARY
If the Red Sox can hold off the Indians, the two teams will meet again on Monday night from Fenway Park.
The left-handed Rodriguez, 23, will be tasked with keeping Boston’s season alive. His sophomore campaign in the Majors was not as productive as his first, as he finished the season with a 3-7 record, a 4.71 ERA, and a 1.30 WHIP in 20 starts. In his rookie season, he went 10-6 in 21 starts with a 3.85 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. He has faced the Indians once in his career, firing eight innings of one-run baseball last season, allowing six hits while striking out five.
Bauer will take the mound for the Indians on short rest, but manager Terry Francona seems to have faith that his arm is more than up to that task. He pitched four and two-thirds innings in a no-decision in Game 1, throwing 78 pitches (52 strikes) while allowing three runs on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Two of his hits allowed left the yard.
If necessary, first pitch of Game 4 is scheduled for 6:00 PM ET from Boston.
Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images