Tribe Rallies with Three Blasts, Holds Off Late Sox Charge; Indians 5, Red Sox 4

A playoff preview from Fenway Park lived up to every bit of the hype on Monday night as the visiting Cleveland Indians rebounded from an early three-run deficit, then held off a late rally from the Red Sox for a 5-4 win in the series opener from Boston.

In a pitching matchup that pitted former Cy Young winners Rick Porcello of Boston and Corey Kluber of Cleveland, both starters would deal with scoring threats of the opposing power packed lineups. The Red Sox stepped up big early with two-out hitting, but the Tribe outfielders countered with blasts of their own to get the Indians back into the game in the middle innings. The Tribe dealt the deciding blow against Porcello in the seventh, then had to protect a two-run lead with the relief staff carrying the load for the final three innings.

The Red Sox did early damage against Kluber to take a first inning lead. After the Tribe’s ace struck out the first two batters of the home half, the Red Sox started their two-out hitting as three straight knocks – a single from Mitch Moreland, a double from J.D. Martinez, and a two-run single from Xander Bogaerts – gave Boston the first advantage of the game.

The Indians stranded a pair against Porcello in the second after back-to-back one-out singles from Yonder Alonso and Melky Cabrera. The pair moved up on a wild pitch, but advanced no further as Porcello struck out Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes swinging to escape unharmed.

Brantley & Lindor – Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Boston added another run in the second and again did the damage with two outs. Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled to center and moved to third on a single to left by Mookie Betts. Andrew Benintendi made it a 3-0 game with a base hit to left before Moreland left a pair on with a groundout.

Porcello retired eight straight before the Indians got back into the hit column and, more importantly, the runs column. Cabrera, leading off the fifth, drove a four-seamer into the right-center bullpen to make it a 3-1 game with his second homer in as many games.

After the rough performance in the early innings, Kluber was able to slow down the Sox. He pitched a perfect third with three groundouts, allowed a leadoff single to Brock Holt in the fourth before he was caught stealing and a two-out hit to Bradley, and a one-out walk to Moreland in the fifth, but Kluber struck out four in those innings to keep the game close.

The Indians got a big blow in the sixth off of Porcello. Francisco Lindor won a foot race to first with Porcello to leg out an infield single. Two pitches later, Michael Brantley hit a no-doubt-about-it blast to right-center in a rare pimp job from the All-Star left fielder. His 14th shot of the season tied the game at three.

Kluber continued to deal with company on the bases as Ian Kinsler led off the sixth with an infield single, but he was left at first. The Indians then got back to work with another big drive, one that would prove to be the difference in the game just pitches after it looked like Porcello might be removed. Kipnis worked a one-out walk before Gomes lined a shot off of Porcello’s stomach. He recovered and threw to second for the force of Kipnis for the second out before dropping to his knees clutching his stomach. After being checked out, Porcello returned to the center of the diamond, but two pitches later, Greg Allen, who had been robbed of hits his first two trips to the plate, launched a shot into the bullpen in right-center, scoring Gomes and making it a 5-3 contest.

Pitching with his first lead of the night, Kluber retired Betts on a groundout before turning the game over to the bullpen. Oliver Perez recorded the second out before walking Moreland. Adam Cimber came on for Perez and gave up a single to Martinez, putting runners on the corners, but Bogaerts could not deliver in his third at bat, grounding out to second to end the inning. The Red Sox threatened briefly in the eighth off of Brad Hand, who relieved his former San Diego Padres teammate. Hand allowed a two-out bloop double to shallow right before striking out Bradley.

The Indians could not expand on their lead in the final two innings against the Red Sox bullpen tandem of Tyler Thornburg and Drew Pomeranz, leaving it a two-run game for Cody Allen to protect in the bottom of the ninth. As has been the case for some time, Allen struggled with command and pitched himself into trouble, but he was able to pull up the bootstraps just in the nick of time. Betts doubled and Benintendi walked to start the final frame. Moreland grounded into a force at second for the first out and Martinez popped up to Alonso for the second out, but Bogaerts delivered another big hit with a slow rolling squib towards Jose Ramirez at third that scored Betts to make it a 5-4 game. With the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on at first, Kinsler went toe-to-toe with Allen in an eight-pitch battle, ultimately flying out to Brantley in left to end it.

The Indians (72-52) moved to a season-high 20 games over the .500 mark with the win while sending a message to the rest of the league that the AL Central leaders can play with the big boys, too. The Red Sox (88-38) lost for the second straight game, a rare sight for the Boston faithful. The Beaneaters have lost in consecutive games just eleven times this season and have lost three games in a row just once.

Kluber (16-6, 2.74 ERA) got the win, but it did not come easily. He worked six and one-third innings, allowing the three runs in the first two frames on nine total hits with a walk and six strikeouts. He struggled to get ahead of hitters, but he was able to keep them off balance later in the count with 16 swinging strikes on the night. Perez, Cimber, and Hand were each credited with holds, while Allen’s save in a 28-pitch ninth was his 25th of the year.

“That’s what’s called holding on for dear life,” said Indians manager Terry Francona of the photo finish from Fenway.

Allen – Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Porcello (15-6, 4.14) took just his fifth career loss against the Indians and was not able to build upon a solid performance in Philadelphia in his last start. He pitched seven innings, allowing five runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts. He threw 74 of 107 pitches for strikes and worked ahead often, but the Indians were generally on his stuff when over or around the plate. He had just seven swinging strikes on the night.

The Tribe starting outfield of Brantley, Allen, and Cabrera had an unusual performance, as the trio combined to go 5-for-10 with three runs scored and all five runs batted in on the day. It marked the first time since 2013 that all three starting outfielders for the Indians homered in the same game.

Of the Red Sox’s 13 hits off of Indians pitching, ten came with two outs. All four of their runs were driven in on two-out hits while the team went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

In game two of the four-game set, right-handers Nathan Eovaldi (5-4, 3.62 ERA) and Shane Bieber (6-2, 4.37) will be the pitching probables. Eovaldi spent much of the first half of the season on the disabled list with elbow issues while with the Tampa Bay Rays, but has flashed some solid efforts since his return, especially since his trade to Boston ahead of the July deadline. Bieber will face his first AL East opponent of his career and will look for a win after taking no-decisions in back-to-back outings.

First pitch from Fenway is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.

Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

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