Game 128: Cleveland Indians at Red Sox (August 22, 2018)

Like I said yesterday, baseball is a confusing game. You can be the best team in the league and on one day, you look unbeatable while on another it looks like you can't beat anyone. Granted, Cleveland is one of the better teams in the American League, but I don't think Red Sox Nation was expecting the Sox to drop the first two games of this series in the manner they did, especially at home. With the collective angst of Boston fans at probably it's highest (and yet most unwarranted) level of the season, all eyes were on the team to see how they'd respond to perhaps their biggest adversity of the season.

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The Red Sox couldn't take advantage of Corey Kluber's off night in game one of this series and got shut down by a rookie pitcher in game two. So what do they do in game three against one of the hottest pitchers in the American League? Why, rough him up and knock him out of the game in less than four innings, of course! We all saw that coming, right? It didn't look like that's where this was heading when the game got underway and Cleveland jumped out to an early lead in the first when Edwin Encarnacion knocked a two run homer to center field and gave the Indians a quick 2-0 lead. The Sox responded in the bottom of the inning when JD Martinez cut the lead in half with an RBI single. Xander Bogaerts, who has been swinging a very hot bat lately, hit home run number eighteen on the season in the fourth to tie the game and the Sox were off to the races. Blake Swihart knocked in a run with a single to left field and then, with the bases loaded Andrew Benintendi cleared them with a double. Just like that, it was 6-2 Boston and Carlos Carrasco's night was over. Encarnacion struck again when he crushed another two run homer in the fifth off of my old nemesis Heath Hembree, but Mitch Moreland provided some much needed breathing room when he hit a two run shot of his own in the bottom of the sixth. That gave Boston a bit of a cushion at 8-4, but they weren't done yet. Xander hit his nineteenth homer of the season in the seventh to make it 9-4 and JD pushed across the final Red Sox run of the night with another RBI single in the eighth. Boston got the 10-4 win, kept their chances for a series split alive, and alleviated a lot of hand wringing and stress across New England and beyond. With the Yankees losing 9-3 to the pathetic Marlins (hey Yankees fans, at least the Red Sox can beat bad teams) the division lead was pushed back up to nine games.

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Every Red Sox batter had at least one hit and collectively they outhit Cleveland 14-8. Moreland, JD, Xander, and Jackie Bradley all had two-hit nights and while they left sixteen runners stranded on base for the game, they responded when they needed to. Brian Johnson did his job in keeping the game close, going 4.1 innings and giving up three runs (he wasn't responsible for Encarnacion on the second home run...that was all on Hembree) and striking out three while walking one. It wasn't Chris Sale level stuff, but he did what he was asked to do so that the team had a chance to win. The series finale is Thursday afternoon and features the surging David Price going up against Adam Plutko. That's a huge mismatch on paper, but as the old saying goes: "games aren't played on paper." I'm looking for the Sox to carry over the momentum from this game to win and earn the split. If they do that, they should feel good about their showing against one of the major contenders in the AL as they head to Tampa to start a new road series Friday.

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