CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox knew that taking down Corey Kluber would be a tall task on Wednesday night. Boston was up for the challenge, as it did just enough offensively to back another strong effort from lefty Thomas Pomeranz en route to a 6-1 victory at Progressive Field.Cleveland's American
CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox knew that taking down Corey Kluber would be a tall task on Wednesday night. Boston was up for the challenge, as it did just enough offensively to back another strong effort from lefty Thomas Pomeranz en route to a 6-1 victory at Progressive Field.
Cleveland's American League Cy Young Award candidate and Pomeranz (aka "Big Smooth" for Players Weekend) matched zeros until Kluber (aka "Klubes" for Players Weekend) finally flinched in the fifth, when Mitch Moreland (aka "2-Bags" for Players Weekend) sent an elevated cutter into the right-field seats for the game's first breakthrough. Boston added on from there, and the American League East-leading Red Sox maintained their 4 1/2-game lead over the Yankees. Boston also moved 20 games over .500 for the first time this season.
In a four-game series pitting two teams that are on course to meet in an AL Division Series for the second straight year, the Red Sox have taken two of the first three. The Indians swept the Red Sox last October.
"These are intense games," said Pomeranz said. "Every game [feels like] a must-win game for us, after playing them last year."
Kluber was otherwise brilliant for the Indians, whose lead atop the AL Central held firm at 4 1/2 games due to the Twins' loss to the White Sox. The righty was charged with two runs and ended with 12 strikeouts and one walk over 7 2/3 innings in the hard-luck loss. Kluber now has a 1.87 ERA over his past 16 turns, dating back to June 1.
• Depleted lineup unable to back Kluber's gem
"Kluber's one of the best pitchers in the game," said Red Sox second baseman Eduardo Nunez. "We just tried to fight him and put up good at-bats."
Pomeranz leaned heavily on his knuckle curve to keep Cleveland's depleted lineup at bay. With four regulars out with injuries, the Tribe's patchwork offense struggled Pomeranz went 5 1/3 innings, scattered two hits and countered his four walks with nine strikeouts.
"[He threw a] fastball up that was getting past our barrel," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And then, [he had] a very good curveball -- threw it for strikes, threw it for strike-to-ball. He coupled that with the fastball that he kind of rode for the most part up, out over the zone. He really gave us fits."
With the win, Pomeranz improved to 13-4 with a 3.18 ERA, and continued his recent run of dominance. Over his past 13 outings, the left-hander has gone 7-0 with a 2.14 ERA, while developing into Boston's No. 2 starter.
"I go out there trying to make pitches and not let them get on base or score anyways," said Pomeranz. "I don't really like to look at the other pitcher, because I still have to go out there and do my job. If I do my job, it doesn't matter who's out on the other side."
The Red Sox tacked on five runs over the final two frames -- highlighted by a two-run homer by Nunez in the ninth. That more than overcame the solo homer that Tribe slugger Edwin Encarnacion (aka "EE" for Players Weekend) sent a projected 452 feet into the left-field bleachers against Boston reliever Addison Reed in the eighth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Betts buys insurance: With two outs in the eighth and his pitch count climbing, Kluber issued a walk to Brock Holt (aka "Brock Star" for Players Weekend) and then hit Nunez with a pitch. That set things up for Mookie Betts, who pulled a pitch with an exit velocity at 99 mph, per Statcast™. The grounder struck the glove of third baseman Giovanny Urshela and shot into left field, scoring Holt to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. That also ended Kluber's night at 114 pitches.
"I wanted to let him have a chance to finish the inning," Francona said. "That would've been a heck of a play by Gio. But it's a ball that goes off the third baseman's glove for the next run. [Kluber] pitched a great game."
Nunez puts game on ice: Nunez's shot off Tribe reliever Bryan Shaw in the ninth turned a tightly contested game into a romp for the Red Sox. The blast was not just the infielder's second in as many nights, but his sixth in 101 at-bats with Boston. Before being traded to the Red Sox, Nunez had four homers in 302 at-bats with the Giants this season.
"I don't know that we were thinking home run," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He was swinging the bat well. We needed to add to our offense, which, let's face it, month of July, we were stagnant. He's done that and the power certainly has been there. He's such a good high-ball hitter and that's where a lot of those home runs have come -- from pitches up." More >
"If guys just go out there and stay within themselves and if we play the way we know that we can when we're playing good, I think we'll come through it OK. It's not like all these guys are having season-ending injuries or anything like that." -- Kluber, on Cleveland's recent rash of injuries
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kluber has recorded eight or more strikeouts in 14 consecutive home starts, tying him with Pedro Martinez (1997-98) and Nolan Ryan (1973) for the second-longest streak of its kind in MLB history. Sandy Koufax boasts the record with 15 home starts in a row with at least eight punchouts during the 1965 campaign.
Kluber has joined Bob Feller (1938-41) and Sam McDowell (1965-70) as the only pitchers in Indians history with at least 200 strikeouts in four consecutive seasons.
The Red Sox are 39-4 in the past 43 games they've scored four runs or more, an indication of how good their pitching has been this season.
Red Sox: With Boston seeking a series victory, lefty ace Chris Sale (14-5, 2.62 ERA) closes out this four-game series when he pitches Thursday's 7:10 p.m. ET contest. Sale (aka "Stickman" for Players Weekend) has had his share of problems against the Indians, going 5-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 17 starts. Outfielder Rajai Davis will arrive in time for the game and might make his Red Sox debut after being acquired from the Athletics on Wednesday.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe, who seek a four-game split in an MLB Network Showcase Game on Thursday at Progressive Field. Bauer (aka "Bauer Outage" for Players Weekend) has gone 7-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 13 starts at home this season.
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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.