BOSTON -- It started out so promising for the Red Sox on Monday night, as they went on the early attack against one of the best pitchers in baseball in Corey Kluber. Meanwhile, Rick Porcello was carving up the Indians and seemed primed to make an early lead stand up.But
BOSTON -- It started out so promising for the Red Sox on Monday night, as they went on the early attack against one of the best pitchers in baseball in Corey Kluber. Meanwhile, Rick Porcello was carving up the Indians and seemed primed to make an early lead stand up.
But in the middle of the game, the Tribe played home run derby against Porcello and turned the tables while handing the Red Sox a 5-4 defeat in the opener off a four-game series at Fenway Park.
It was a matchup of two top teams that could face each other in the postseason for the second time in the last three years. And there was even a chilly wind in the air that made it feel a little like October.
"It was playoff-type baseball," said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Down two runs entering the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox tried to stage a thrilling comeback against Indians closer Cody Allen by putting two on with nobody out. At that point, the packed house of 37,274 was ready to erupt. But Allen got the three outs he needed to save it for Kluber.
"This place can get electric," said Indians manager Terry Francona. "A guy throws ball one and feels like it's bases loaded. That's part of being here."
The tying and go-ahead runs were both on base when Ian Kinsler hit Allen's 3-2 fastball -- the eighth pitch of the at-bat -- into left for a routine flyout.
"I had a good pitch to hit. I don't know how many pitches I saw off him, maybe seven or eight, and got a pitch to hit on the last one and I just missed it," said Kinsler.
Porcello was at his best until Melky Cabrera sliced Boston's lead to 3-1 when he belted a shot to right-center to lead off the fifth. And in the sixth, Michael Brantley struck with a clutch, two-run shot to right to tie the game. What hurt was the inning could have been over before it got to Brantley, but Porcello was late covering first on a grounder to the right side hit by Francisco Lindor, who reached on an infield hit.
"I really don't believe any frustration set in when I failed to cover first base on the Lindor ball," said Porcello. "I just missed too much on the fat part of the plate to Brantley. Honestly, the pitches to Melky and Brantley, nine out of 10 guys I've faced don't hit those balls out of the ballpark, so I have to tip to my hat."
In the seventh, Porcello fell victim to the long ball for the third straight inning when Greg Allen mauled a two-run shot to right to make it 5-3, Indians. That came just moments after he was belted in the stomach on a fielder's choice grounder by Yan Gomes.
"The pitch to Allen, not trying to take anything away from him, but I think even I could've hit that one pretty hard," Porcello said. "It was not a good pitch and it came at the worst possible time. I don't think anything affected me leading up to that. I just need to make that pitch against Allen in the seventh. You got a tie game, 3-3, against a good ballclub. All the guys are playing hard. I have to make a pitch and I didn't. And it sucks.
"I prepared a lot, prepared to make every start, and when you allow one at-bat or one pitch to define the night, it hurts. Bounce back and move on. That one definitely hurt."
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The 88-38 Red Sox have lost two in a row for the first time since July 25-26, but they still lead the Yankees by nine games in the American League East.
The heavy-hitting Red Sox made an early statement in this one that they can handle even the elite pitchers. Though two-time Cy Young Award winner Kluber mowed down the tough 1-2 tandem of Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi to start the bottom of the first, the Sox quickly generated a two-out rally. Mitch Moreland got it started with a single to left.
Up stepped J.D. Martinez, who hit a 116.7-mph ground ball into the right-field corner for a double. It was the hardest-hit ball that Kluber has allowed since Statcast™ started tracking the data in 2015. Bogaerts impressively hit an 0-2 slider on the low and outside corner into center for a two-run single to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
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Again, the Sox rallied against Kluber with two outs and nobody on in the second. Jackie Bradley Jr. got it started with a double to center, and Betts singled to left. Benintendi then went the other way with an RBI single to left.
However, Kluber (16-6, 2.74 ERA) settled down nicely as the great ones do and got the win.
"He's a Cy Young [Award winner], a really good pitcher," said Bogaerts. "I think his ball was moving a lot. He settled down along the way. He's been finding ways to do that his whole career."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Allen robs Kinsler: The Red Sox had already scored two in the first and Kinsler came close to making it 3-0 when he belted one in the gap in left-center. However, Allen snuffed out the rally with an impressive diving catch.
"The ball Ian hit in the first inning was hit hard," Cora said. "We score another one there and [you never know]. We had traffic all over the place today, but we weren't able to cash in."
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Bogaerts came through with the big hit in the first. In 77 plate appearances this season with multiple runners on base, he is hitting .383 (23-for-60) with 16 extra-base hits and a .467 on-base percentage.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Benintendi's diving grab: Greg Allen seemed to be in the middle of everything in this one. In the fifth, he belted a sinking liner to left and Benintendi came on for a sweet, diving catch. According to Statcast™, it was a four-star grab in which Benintendi had a catch probability of 28 percent and he needed to go 49 feet in 3.4 seconds.
HE SAID IT
"We definitely knew what we were coming into. We've played here quite a few times. There are a lot of guys on this club who have been through it - we played here in [the playoffs in] '16, and guys have played here often. You're coming into hostile territory." -- Cody Allen, on playing at Fenway
Hard-throwing righty Nathan Eovaldi, who is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA since joining the Red Sox, draws the assignment in Game 2 of this four-game set against the Indians on Tuesday. In his first two Fenway starts for the Red Sox, Eovaldi hasn't allowed a run over 15 innings. The Indians counter with righty Shane Bieber (6-2, 4.37 ERA). First pitch in the MLB Network Showcase Game is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.