There was good news and bad news on Monday night as the Cleveland Indians made their long-awaited return home to Progressive Field after an eleven-game road trip and won in an exciting 5-4 finish on a sacrifice bunt turned walk-off error.
The start of a key four-game series between the leaders of the American League East and American League Central Divisions had all of the excitement that the playoff preview was expected to have. The Red Sox built an early lead, lost that lead, got it back with the aid of replay review in the middle innings, then lost that lead and the ball game in the final two innings, ultimately on a walk-off throwing error in the bottom of the ninth. The Indians, while losing their early 3-2 lead but gaining a needed win on the team above them in the AL playoff picture, also lost slugger Carlos Santana and reliever Andrew Miller to injuries.
The Indians tied the game in the eighth, setting the stage for a celebration in the final frame. Brandon Guyer started the inning for the Tribe with a double off of reliever Brandon Workman. Roberto Perez, already with a three-run homer under his belt on the night, dropped down a bunt towards first base to move Guyer to third. First baseman Brock Holt fielded the ball and fired towards third to cut down the potential winning run, but the throw skipped by rookie third baseman Rafael Devers. Guyer was able to get up from his slide into the bag and sprinted towards home, scoring the deciding run in the walk-off win.
“It was just a routine play,” said Holt of his costly game-ending error. “I couldn’t get it out of the glove, fumbled it a little bit, and then tried to rush the throw, and made a bad one.”
Cody Allen took the win, his first of the season against six losses, after pitching a scoreless top of the ninth. Workman’s loss was his first of the season. The Indians are now 69-54 on the year and 32-27 at Progressive Field. The Red Sox dropped to 71-53 and are now even on the road at 31-31.
Boston got to Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger just three batters into the game to claim the first lead of the night. Clevinger, back on the mound just four days after a long relief appearance in Minnesota against the Twins, walked the second batter of the game, Mookie Betts, before Andrew Benintendi homered to right to put the Red Sox up, 2-0.
The Indians put together a big inning of their own in the bottom of the second against left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. Jay Bruce, making his home debut as an Indian and bringing in a healthy career batting average at Progressive Field, singled to right to lead things off. Santana flied to center before a walk by Guyer put two on the base paths for Perez. He sent a 1-1 pitch deep to center towards the bullpen for a three-run blast to move the Indians in front, 3-2.
Clevinger pitched with traffic on the bases all game long. He gave up a two-out single to Christian Vazquez in the second and did the same in the third to Benintendi before walking Hanley Ramirez on four straight, but in both cases, he worked out of it. Xander Bogaerts drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and moved to second on a groundout by Vazquez, but after a hit by pitch of Jackie Bradley Jr., Eduardo Nunez grounded to first to leave a pair.
The Red Sox got some help from replay in the fifth. Betts walked to start the inning. After Benintendi fouled out and with Ramirez at the plate, Betts broke for second and was called out on the caught stealing, but manager John Farrell challenged and won the call. Two pitches later, Ramirez homered deep to left, moving Boston back on top, 4-3.
The Indians struggled to generate offense against the southpaw Rodriguez after the Perez homer. Guyer reached and was stranded after an infield single with two down in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion walked with one out in the sixth and was balked into scoring position, but a strikeout of Bruce and a fly out by Santana off of reliever Joe Kelly ended the scoring chance.
Kelly would retire the side in order in the seventh, but the Indians were able to strike through against the Boston bullpen in the eighth.
Francisco Lindor drew a leadoff walk on five pitches against Matt Barnes and moved into scoring position on a single to left-center by Austin Jackson. Heath Hembree came on and struck out Jose Ramirez for the first out, but Encarnacion delivered on the next pitch, sending a single to left to score Lindor with the tying run. Both runners moved up 90 feet on the throw, giving the Indians a big chance to take the lead with only one out, but Robby Scott came on and struck out both Bruce and Bradley Zimmer swinging to leave a pair in scoring position.
Allen pitched a scoreless ninth to leave the game tied, working around a leadoff single from Vazquez. Workman entered the game in relief of Scott in the bottom of the inning, giving up the double to Guyer before the sacrifice bunt gone wild by Perez.
Clevinger struggled for the Tribe, lasting just four and one-third innings while allowing four runs on four hits with four walks and four strikeouts while making 81 pitches on the night. Rodriguez was a hair better for the Sox, lasting five and two-thirds innings while giving up three runs on four hits with a pair of walks and five strikeouts.
Jackson and Guyer each had two hits on the night. Guyer reached three times with an additional walk and scored a pair of runs, including the game-winner. Vazquez and Benintendi were the big contributors to the Sox lineup with two hits each, but Vazquez did not contribute any to the final score. Ramirez and Benintendi each drove in a pair of runs.
Santana and Miller both left the game with injuries. Santana attempted to play through a sore lower back but left in the eighth inning. Miller left in the seventh inning after re-aggravating his right knee injury. He had just returned to the Indians roster on Friday, but appears to be headed back to the disabled list.
“It stinks missing any time. I’ve already missed 12 days or something like that. I don’t want to do it again,” said Miller after the game. “We’ll find out more [Tuesday]. See how I wake up.”
The Tribe and Sox will play game two of four on Tuesday night in a 7:10 PM ET first pitch. Boston will send Doug Fister (2-6, 5.56 ERA) to the mound for a rare third start this season against Cleveland. Carlos Carrasco (12-5, 3.76) will counter for the Tribe, looking to extend his winning streak to three straight.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images