After clinching and celebrating their third straight American League East title with an 11-6 win over the New York Yankees on Thursday night, the Red Sox headed to Cleveland looking to make more history in their last road series of the regular season against an Indians team that clinched their division weeks ago.
Making his 26th start of the season in and third since returning from the disabled list on September 11th in this series opener was Chris Sale.
Entering Friday with a lifetime 4.63 ERA in 14 career outings at Progressive Field, the left-hander’s night, although on the short side, went decently well.
Pitching into the fourth inning of this one, Sale held the Indians to two runs on five hits, one of which was a home run, and zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.
Facing 15 total batters, the Florida native really did not run into any trouble until that bottom half of the fourth, when with one out and the bases empty, newest Indian Josh Donaldson unloaded on a 2-1 95 MPH fastball and pulled it 396 feet into the left field bleachers.
That was followed up by a Yandy Diaz single, and that is how Sale’s night would come to a conclusion, at least on the field of play.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 73 (48 strikes) the most he has thrown since returning from the DL, the 29-year-old turned to his four-seam seam fastball 25 times on the evening, and topped out at 95.7 MPH with that same pitch in the third inning.
Unable to pick up the winning decision due to the length of last night’s start, Sale will take his square 2.00 ERA into his final start of the regular season in his next time out, which will come against the Baltimore Orioles this Wednesday at night at Fenway Park. Expect the ace to ramp it up to somewhere around 85 pitches in that one.
In relief of Sale, Heath Hembree got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen with one out and one on in the fourth, and he officially closed the book on the starter’s night by serving up a two-run homer to Indians catcher Yan Gomes that gave Cleveland a 3-1 advantage.
From the middle of the fifth inning on, Bobby Poyner, Matt Barnes, Drew Pomeranz, Brandon Workman, Hector Velazquez, and Robby Scott combined to toss four innings of two-run ball to set up Craig Kimbrel for the save in the ninth.
Working for the second time in as many days with a two run lead to protect, the Red Sox closer sat down all three batters he faced to notch his 42nd save and secure his team’s 105th win of the season.
All and all, not including Sale, Alex Cora turned to EIGHT total relievers on Friday night. Matt Barnes also made his first appearance out of the bullpen in over two weeks and picked up his sixth win of the year with a scoreless sixth inning of work.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer, who was making his first start since August 11th after fracturing his right fibula.
Before we get into this, I just want you to go ahead and take a look at Friday’s lineup to get an idea of what the expectations were going into this one.
- Tzu-Wei Lin, CF
- Brandon Phillips, 2B
- Rafael Devers, 3B
- JD Martinez, DH
- Steve Pearce, 1B
- Brock Holt, SS
- Blake Swihart, RF
- Sam Travis, LF
- Sandy Leon, C
As you can see, not exactly what the ALDS lineup is going to look like. It makes sense given the fact most of the everyday guys were a bit hung over from the postgame festivites on Thursday to go along with an early morning flight to Cleveland.
Anyway, Bauer, like Sale, was on a pitch cap, and he only made it into the second inning before getting the hook in favor of Matt Olson, who finished the frame without surrendering a run.
That made way for RHP Shane Bieber to begin the top half of the third, and Sam Travis greeted him right away by launching his first ever big league home run to put Boston on the board first.
Fast forward to the sixth, with Bieber still on the hill for Cleveland, and Rafael Devers stayed hot by mashing a two out solo homer good for his 18th of the season to cut the Indians lead to two.
An inning later, two straight one out hits set up Sam Travis in another prime run scoring opportunity, and he delivered by drilling a two RBI double to right center that plated both Brock Holt and Blake Swihart to tie this contest up at four runs each.
A few moments later, leadoff man Tzu-Wei Lin drove in Travis, who represented the go-ahead run, on a hard hit infield single that deflected off of Bieber’s heel and could not be fielded in time. 5-4 game.
Following a Brandon Phillips single and a pitching change that saw right-hander Neil Ramirez take over for Bieber, Rafael Devers came through once again by lining a run-scoring single to left field that allowed Lin to come in from third and give his team a two-run edge.
After the Indians bounced back with a run of their own in their half of the seventh, Tzu-Wei Lin essentially put this game on ice by demolishing his first career big fly off of Dan Otero with one out in the top of the ninth.
A 396 foot shot to right field that put the Red Sox up 7-5, which would go on to be the final score in their 105th win of the season, in case you missed that the first time.
Some notes from this 7-5 win:
From @SoxNotes: The Red Sox improve to 105-49, tying the franchise’s all-time single-season wins record (105-47 in 1912). Their magic number to clinch MLB’s best record is 1.
In the month of September, Craig Kimbrel is 5/5 in save opportunities over eight relief appearances. He has not allowed a single run to score in that span.
Rafael Devers is 6/16 (.375) in his last four games.
Dating back to September 9th, Brock Holt is slashing .455/.520/.909 with three home runs and eight RBI.
Since being recalled from Triple A Pawtucket on September 1st, Tzu-Wei Lin owns an OPS of 1.200.
Going for a record-setting 106th win later tonight, it will be Rick Porcello getting the starting nod for Boston.
Over the course of his 10-year career, Porcello has pitched at Progressive Field 12 times, where he owns a 2.84 ERA over 73 innings pitched.
Opposite Porcello will be another Indians right-hander in Mike Clevinger, who has seemingly emerged as one of the more underrated hurlers in the American League thanks to a breakout season in which he has posted a 3.06 ERA over a span of 30 starts with Cleveland.
First pitch of the middle game of the series is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET Saturday. Time to make some history.