Tuesday night has forced me to break character a little bit.
Had it not been for 104 recaps on this website already this season, I might have opted to skip the events that transpired at Fenway Park on Tuesday so as to not relive them again. But, out of respect for the process, the show, as they say, must go on. To the handful of people who elect to subject themselves to what follows, either for a first time or for a painful repeated dose, this is my apology. You have been warned. Turn back now.
Tuesday night was the kind of ball game that few who watched will forget for quite some time and one has to wonder about the long-term repercussions on those who played the game itself. It had a little bit of everything, with the exception of good pitching, and was an entertaining game from start to finish for both sides, albeit for different reasons along the way. The ball flew all around Fenway Park. There was a highlight reel catch in center field by Austin Jackson that will be played throughout the rest of the 2017 regular season, if not into the foreseeable future. There were several lead changes, two very significant wild pitches late by big-time closers, and a pair of game-changing home runs in the ninth.
This recap should be about how the Indians tagged Chris Sale for seven runs, including five in the first two innings. It should be about Francisco Lindor becoming just the second player to take Craig Kimbrel deep on an 0-2 count in his lengthy career and that the shot over the Monster tied the game in the top of the ninth. It should be about how the Indians loaded the bases with two outs in the frame and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch from the All-Star closer.
Instead, Christian Vazquez completed another Indians collapse on the night and took Cody Allen deep in the bottom of the ninth with a three-run walk-off shot to dead center to end a 12-10 slugfest.
So what happened?
Carlos Carrasco could not hold a giant lead against Sale. The Indians scored three times in the first, getting an RBI-single from Michael Brantley after Lindor and Guyer reached safely. Carlos Santana put two more on the board with two down on a big double. Guyer would come up with two down in the second and drive in Yan Gomes, who had walked to start the inning, with a two-run homer over the Green Monster to put the Indians up five against the American League’s top Cy Young candidate.
The first of many problems for the Indians on the night was that Carrasco did not have “it”. A walk, a double, and a Mitch Moreland homer in the bottom of the second after the first man was retired cut the deficit to two runs at 5-3. A double, a walk, an RBI-infield single, and an RBI-double tied the game, and it could have actually been worse had Brock Holt not been thrown out at the plate. Carrasco was done, with just an inning and two-thirds in the books with five runs allowed on six hits with three walks and just one strikeout.
The Indians got good emergency relief from Tyler Olson and Dan Otero, keeping the score the same until the two-out mark in the fifth, when Jose Ramirez doubled and Edwin Encarnacion cleared the Monster to put Cleveland back up, 7-5. Sale was finished after five with his shortest outing of the season, striking out a season-low five batters in the process with a high of seven runs allowed. The Cleveland pitching staff would benefit from one of the catches of the season in the bottom of the inning as Jackson started the fifth by robbing Hanley Ramirez of a home run by going up and over the short wall in center with a spectacular catch.
The Indians stranded a pair in the top of the sixth, which proved all the more costly given the way the bottom of the frame unfolded with Bryan Shaw on the mound. Moreland, already with the second inning homer under his belt, doubled with one out and moved to third on a single by Vazquez. Mookie Betts made it a one-run game with an infield single and Terry Francona had to go to Andrew Miller. But just as was the case with Carrasco and Shaw before him, Miller did not have it. After Miller hit the first batter that he faced, Eduardo Nunez doubled high off of the wall in left, clearing the loaded bases to put Boston on top for the first time, 9-7.
While the momentum may have swung, the Indians offense, to its credit, never stopped. Santana greeted Addison Reed, a familiar face from his days with the Chicago White Sox who was making his Red Sox debut, with a solo homer to right to lead off the eighth to cut the score to 9-8. Joe Smith, making his first appearance back in an Indians uniform, wrapped up his second scoreless innings in the home half, allowing just a broken bat single to left by Nunez in his work.
Kimbrel, like Sale, Carrasco, Shaw, and Miller, would not be able to escape the game without drama. Ahead in the count 0-2 to Lindor to start the top of the ninth, his fellow AL All-Star cleared the wall in left with a clutch solo shot to tie the game. Two outs followed before Ramirez and Encarnacion singled to right and Santana walked to load the bases. With Jackson at the plate, Kimbrel uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Ramirez to score the go-ahead run as the Indians took a 10-9 lead before Jackson flied to right.
Allen entered and things fell apart for the Tribe in fluke fashion. Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out for the first out before super rookie Rafael Devers reached for the thousandth time in the series with a single to third. Xander Bogaerts flied to center for the second out, bringing up the last hope in Moreland. After fouling off four pitches, Moreland struck out swinging, but the pitch from Allen bounded away from Gomes to the backstop. Moreland, after an initial delay, rushed down the line and reached safely to keep the inning alive. Allen’s 2-1 pitch to the next batter, Vazquez, was in the dirt and allowed both runners to move up. His next offering was in the nitro zone, where the Red Sox catcher drilled the game-winner to center, giving Boston an improbable, gut-wrenching victory.
Allen got the loss, his sixth, as well as his second blown save. Kimbrel lucked into his third win, showcasing the uselessness of the statistic in baseball today, after blowing his fourth save of the campaign. Boston is now 59-49 on the season and 32-20 at home, while Cleveland is 57-48 and 29-24 on the road.
The Indians, despite the heartbreaking defeat, gave up no ground in the division as the Kansas City Royals lost again to the Baltimore Orioles as the AL East continues to play cruel hosts to the Central this week.
Trevor Bauer (9-8, 5.25 ERA) will be tasked with putting this most recent loss, the third straight by the Indians after a nine-game winning streak, to bed on Wednesday in the 7:10 PM ET finale of the three-game series from Massachusetts. Rick Porcello (4-14, 4.55) will look to complete the series sweep while trying to find some of the form that earned him the top pitching hardware in the league last season.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images