In this first contest of the newly minted President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski era in Boston, Joe Kelly (5-6, 5.69) toed the rubber for the Red Sox vs. the Indians, looking to build on his last outstanding start vs. the Mariners (one earned run on four hits over six innings). Kelly had won his last three starts (16.1 IP, 8 ER), though giving up six earned runs in one of those. For the Indians, last year’s Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber (8-12, 3.34) took the hill so it was a good night to give three regulars the day off, especially Hanley Ramirez who is coming back from a sore foot, and has not homered since July 11. Kluber led the league in complete games (four) and innings pitched (180.2), coming into this game. He had thrown complete games in three of his prior four starts, allowing one earned run in each.
The Red Sox showed the power of the middle of their order as back-to-back home runs off Kluber quickly put the Red Sox on top of the second inning, 2-0. David Ortiz started it with a towering fly ball to right that just eluded the glove of Cleveland right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall as it dropped into the bullpen for Ortiz’ 492nd career home run. The white-hot Travis Shaw took Kluber to left field and over the Green Monster for his sixth home run of the season. Shaw now has four home runs in his last 26 plate appearances. Chisenhall made a leaping catch later in that second inning to rob another hot hitter,Jackie Bradley Jr., of another possible home run or at least an extra-base hit.
After Pablo Sandoval stroked a double to lead off the fourth inning, Kluber came back to strike out Ortiz and Shaw and it appeared he might escape further trouble. Rusney Castillo extended the inning, with a ground single to left field to put runners at first and third with two outs. Bradley Jr. managed to lay off Kluber’s curve in the dirt to avoid the fate that befell Ortiz and Shaw, and hammer the next pitch off the light tower about the Monster in left field for a three run homer to make the score, 5-0. Ryan Hanigan hammered the next Kluber offering over everything in left field, for just his second home run on the season, his first since April 17 against Baltimore. This was the second back-to-back set of home runs on the night for the Red Sox, pushing their lead to 6-0.
The Indians were able to get on the board in the fifth inning. Chisenhall lofted a single to right field to lead off the frame. It appeared a double play was about to erase Chisenhall, but the ball skipped under the glove of tonight’s second baseman Josh Rutledge off the bat of Indians catcher Yan Gomes to send Chisenhall to third. With runners on first and third, that double play was successfully started by Rutledge off the bat of Abraham Almonte, scoring Chisenhall, to make it 6-1. After two more hits in the inning, and a wild pitch, Kelly managed to strike out the American League’s leading hitter Jason Kipnis on a 3-2 slider with runners at second and third.
Castillo had an embarrassing mistake in the seventh inning which will make some blooper reels. When he caught a fly ball for the second out of the seventh inning, it appeared he didn’t know how many outs there were as he didn’t turn around toward the field after he caught it. All in one motion, he threw the ball into the right field stands. Bewildered teammates stared at him in disbelief as Castillo started back toward the infield, realizing his mistake after a few steps and the fact that others were not running off the field. Almonte who was on first at the time, was given third base, on what was ruled an error.. Castillo will likely thank Alexi Ogando profusely for striking out Kipnis with the man at third base to end the inning without any further damage.
The Red Sox seemed to be cruising to an easy 6-1 victory until new co-closer Jean Machi entered the game. After entering the game when a right handed batter was announced while Tommy Layne was on the mound, he proceeded to walk that pinch hitter and get two strikes on Gomes, who managed to take a Machi hanging splitter to the right field corner and into the stands for a three-run homer to make the score 6-4. Machi managed to escape further trouble, but he would not be working the ninth inning to the likely relief of most of the fans paying attention.
Junichi Tazawa came on to close the game out and it was not without its tense moments. A fly ball to right looked like trouble, but was handled by Castillo without a problem just to the edge of the fence near the Pesky Pole in foul territory.. A hot shot was hit to Sandoval but he seems to be in the middle of a fielding comeback as he speared the hard grounder and threw over to first for the out. When Kipnis grounded out more routinely to third base, Tazawa had his first save of the season, and the Red Sox had a 6-4 victory.
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- Kluber had allowed only 13 homers in 180.2 innings coming into the game. The four homers allowed was a career high for him
- Castillo’s gaffe was at least the third time a Boston player has forgotten the outs this season as Ramirez was thrown out on the bases after thinking there were two outs instead of one, and Bradley Jr. thought there were only two outs when there were three in a game at Tampa early in the season, which was the last out of the game.
- Bradley Jr. has 16 RBI in his last eight games.
- After Shaw’s second inning home run, he had the highest home average in team history for a player with at least 40 at-bats, .531. He then made an out so that could no longer apply, but still quite an accomplishment.
Kelly is pitching more like a consistent major league starter the team has been hoping for. He allowed zero earned runs tonight on just six hits, walking three batters and striking out three. He has won his last four starts, posting a 3.22 ERA over that span (22.1 innings, 8 earned runs). If there is a criticism here, it is that he could not get deeper into the game, but the Red Sox were in a good position since they only needed the ‘pen for two innings last night. In the dugout, the television viewer could see interim manager Torey Lovullo encouraging Kelly after telling a dejected Kelly that he was taking him out of the game at 100 pitches. Considering the bullpen’s struggles this season, one could understand Kelly’s disappointment, but he notched the win in the end. Kelly is using his breaking pitches more effectively and hopefully can ride this momentum into next season.
Tazawa gets the award for recording his first save of the season, after being saddled with five blown saves this season. It took some good glove work to record the first two outs and he had a three ball count on the first batter. Though he wasn’t the dominant Tazawa we usually see, he still got the job done. The struggling Ogando managed to overcome that Castillo brain cramp and finish a scoreless inning. Machi allowed one of Layne’s runners to score as well as his own runner on the home run. Machi had been on a run of six innings pitched with only three hits allowed and no runs before that gopher ball.
This award goes to Bradley who broke the game open with his opposite field three run homer off a Cy Young winner. He nearly had another homer in the second but was robbed by Chisenhall. The Red Sox managed only seven hits on the night, but four of them were homers, so they were at least efficient in putting runs on the board. For putting six runs on the board, even though it was on four homers, they still deserve a B grade.