CLEVELAND -- Too many times in Octobers past have the Red Sox played the role of tormentor for the Indians. The way Progressive Field shook on Thursday night was evidence enough that Cleveland had had enough, and the power display by the Tribe issued a statement that this team wants to erase the bad memories that linger on its fans' minds.
In Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Cleveland became the aggressor, shaking off old ghosts and claiming a rousing 5-4 victory over Boston, grabbing a 1-0 series lead. The Indians chased away Rick Porcello, an AL Cy Young Award contender, before the fifth. Catcher Roberto Perez emerged as the unlikely October hero. And after an onslaught of home runs in the third inning seized the night's momentum, manager Terry Francona leaned heavily on his bullpen to slam the door.
Indians first baseman Mike Napoli said it was easy to sense how much Cleveland's fans are starving for a championship.
"They showed it tonight. It was loud," Napoli said. "I couldn't even hear myself think at the end of the game. We're going to need that out of them. We feed off it. It's fun playing in front of them."
The Red Sox will try to bounce back in Game 2 (4:30 p.m. ET on TBS) when left-hander David Price takes the ball against Indians ace Corey Kluber.
Francona, who once guided the team in the visitors' dugout to a pair of World Series triumphs, is now aiming to end the 68-year drought that moved from old Cleveland Stadium on the lakefront and now lives at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Francona displayed the city's sense of urgency, too, turning to his bullpen with a slim lead in the fifth after a decent showing from Trevor Bauer.
The AL East-champion Red Sox ran to a 1-0 lead in the first and had a 2-1 edge by the third, when rookie Andrew Benintendi temporarily hushed the crowd with a leadoff blast off Bauer. It was not long before Cleveland took the reins of the game, though. In the bottom of the third, Perez led off with a shot to the right-field stands, and Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor followed with home runs of their own.
"After the first one, it was exciting," Kipnis said. "After mine, it was even kind of getting nuts in there. And the third one, our dugout was kind of losing it. We played with a lot of energy. We played with a lot of emotion. That's the way our team goes."
The trio of blasts -- Kipnis and Lindor's coming in back-to-back fashion -- gave the Indians a lead they would not relinquish. Bauer bowed out after 4 2/3 innings, as Francona opted to hand the ball to his relief ace Andrew Miller, and the army of arms behind him. Miller worked two shutout innings, allowing time for Kipnis to add an RBI single in the fifth to give the Tribe a 5-3 advantage.
All five runs were charged to Porcello, who turned in his shortest outing of 2016 (4 1/3 innings), while matching season highs in runs allowed and home runs surrendered (three).
"Yeah, obviously it's tough," Porcello said. "You go out there and give up five runs. That's never how you want to start a playoff series off. The good thing is we've got tomorrow and there are four games left in this thing so we'll bounce back tomorrow and get after it."
Indians setup man Bryan Shaw followed Miller, ending the seventh unscathed before running into trouble in the eighth. Boston's Brock Holt led off with a shot to the right-field seats, trimming the Tribe's lead to one run. The price Francona paid for using Miller so early was then asking closer Cody Allen to retire the game's final five outs. Allen was up for the challenge, dodging some drama in the eighth and holding on in the ninth to seal the win.
In regards to his bullpen usage, Francona said his only concern was winning the game at hand.
"We were trying to win the game tonight," Francona said. "We'll try to win the game tomorrow. I was joking with Kluber and told him he's on a tight 165-170 [pitch count] tomorrow. Nobody ever said you have to be conventional to win."
The victory was the first on the October stage for the Indians since Game 4 of the 2007 AL Championship Series, when Boston came back from a 3-1 series deficit to punch its ticket to the Fall Classic. It was also the Red Sox who bounced the Indians from the playoffs in the 1999 ALDS. For at least one night, those memories were not at the forefront of Tribe fans' minds.
"You're never looking forward to losing the first game, but somebody has to, unfortunately," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "That doesn't mean that we've got to shut it down. We've got to come back and fight back tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Home run derby: Porcello had one of the lowest home run rates (0.93 per nine innings) during the regular season, but that went out the window in the third. Perez electrified the crowd with a leadoff, opposite-field blast to pull the game into a 2-2 tie. Kipnis later raised the decibel level with a towering one-out shot to center, which he admired for a moment before shifting into his trot. Progressive Field's roar became deafening moments later, when Lindor pulled a changeup out to right to push Cleveland ahead, 4-3. The three homers in the third were as many as Porcello allowed in his final seven regular-season starts combined. More >
"Not hard to believe at all," Bauer said of the homers. "Watching it, you see a ball go up in the air and you say, 'Oh, that's going to get out!' And it does, there's excitement, everyone is jumping around. That's huge. That was a turning point in the game for sure."
Boston's late rally falls short: With the Red Sox down a run, Ortiz tried to spark a game-turning rally in the eighth when he motored into second on a double, just beating the throw by right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall. The Indians challenged the call, but to no avail. Ortiz's went home to second in 8.91 seconds according to Statcast™, his best time of the season. But Hanley Ramirez grounded out and Xander Bogaerts struck out to end the threat against Allen.
"They've got a lot of arms down there with some great stuff," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "That's why they won this game. They went to their power arms right away and got it done."
Quick hook: Not long after Bauer yielded a homer to Sandy Leon in the fifth, Francona went into damage-control mode. With two outs in the inning, Francona handed the ball to Miller. It not only marked the earliest this season that the high-leverage reliever appeared in a game, but his earliest entrance since May 14, 2003. Miller got off to a shaky start, allowing a double to Holt before issuing a walk to Betts. That set up a heavyweight battle between Miller and Ortiz. Miller eventually got Big Papi to chase a 2-2 slider for an inning-ending strikeout that preserved the Tribe's 4-3 lead.
"He's very filthy," Ortiz said. "You just pray to God for him to make a mistake."
"I knew to be ready early," Miller said. "I think everybody is at this point. These games are a little bit different. … There's so much adrenaline in these games, you find a way. It's a little bit of a different animal."
Benintendi's blast: Just two months after the Red Sox called him up from Double-A Portland, Benintendi made his postseason debut and did not disappoint. In his first at-bat, the left fielder clocked a solo homer over the wall in right-center to give Boston a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. According to Statcast™, the blast had an exit velocity of 104 mph and a projected distance of 408 feet. Benintendi was the seventh overall pick in the Draft in 2015. The 22-year-old Benintendi became the youngest Red Sox player to hit a homer in the postseason, an honor that Reggie Smith held since his homer in Game 3 of the 1967 World Series. More >
"It was cool. I've got a bunch of family here," Benintendi said, "so glad they could see that. But the goal was to get the win and we didn't, so we'll just focus on tomorrow."
Perez pounces on Benintendi's mistake: In the bottom of the fifth, Benintendi was caught off guard when Perez tagged from first on a fly ball to deep left. Benintendi made a poor throw over the head of Pedroia, and Perez got into scoring position. That wound up being a big play, as Perez scored on an RBI single by Kipnis to make it 5-3, Cleveland.
"The catcher was on first," Benintendi said. "I wasn't planning on him tagging up, but it was a good baseball play by him. I just hesitated."
"The ball kept carrying," Perez said. "I knew I'm known as a slow runner, so he hesitated. Probably too confident about me not trying to run. That was a huge play."
Bradley glides for a great catch: Porcello had already given up three homers in the bottom of the third when Jose Ramirez stung one to deep center that looked like an extra-base hit off the bat. But Jackie Bradley Jr. glided back, jumped as high as he could, and made a sensational catch against the wall to end the inning. According to Statcast™, Bradley covered a distance of 104.6 feet and had a route efficiency of 96.4 percent. More >
"We're the Red Sox. Confidence -- that's the last thing we've lost. We're going to come back tomorrow and give it everything we've got, keep fighting, keep competing as a team, and we cannot get down 0-2." -- Hanley Ramirez
"I think in '13, the first time around, I might've built it up to be a little too much -- made it too hard on myself. I gripped it too tight and the nerves got the best of me. This time around, with just the way the ballclub's played, I was able to settle in. Having a series instead of a nine-inning game, you don't have to press as much." -- Kipnis, on how Thursday felt in comparison to the 2013 AL Wild Card Game
"It was unreal. It's one of those things where, you're watching it and sitting back in the bullpen, taking it all in. You're hoping they hit 17 more." -- Allen, on the Indians' three homers in the third
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• With his homer in the third inning, Perez became the first player in Indians history to hit a home run in his first career postseason plate appearance. In the same inning, Lindor (22 years old) became the second-youngest Cleveland batter in team history to hit a homer in the playoffs. Asdrubal Cabrera (21 in 2007) was the youngest.
• Cleveland's three-homer third marked the first time the team belted three in one inning in the playoffs since Game 3 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees on Oct. 9, 1998 (Mark Whiten, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez).
• The Indians and Red Sox tied an ALDS record with six home runs combined. It has been accomplished seven times in ALDS history. More >
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Cleveland won a critical challenge in the first inning, halting what could have developed into a big inning for the Red Sox. With two outs and runners on the corners, Hanley Ramirez drove a pitch from Bauer into the left-center gap. Pedroia scored easily and Holt tried to sprint home from first. Center fielder Tyler Naquin and Lindor teamed for a strong relay to the plate, where Perez gloved the ball and made a swipe tag as Holt slid headfirst. Home-plate umpire Brian Knight called Holt safe, but Perez immediately began motioning to the Cleveland dugout, calling for a challenge. After a swift 45-second review, the ruling was overturned. Holt was out, and the Indians escaped the first having allowed just one run. More >
The Red Sox returned the favor in the bottom of the second on the play in which the Indians tied the game. Chisenhall's single up the middle scored Jose Ramirez from second when Bradley's throw home was off the mark. But Leon alertly stepped forward and gathered the throw, and he instantly fired to second as Chisenhall tried to advance. Initially ruled safe, the call was overturned after a challenge by Red Sox manager John Farrell. More >
In the eighth, Ortiz pulled a pitch from Allen to the wall in right-center and hustled around first to try for a double. Big Papi arrived at the same time as the throw, but was deemed safe by a hair. The Indians challenged the call, which stood after a replay review lasting one minute, 33 seconds.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Price joked at his initial news conference after signing with Boston that he was saving his postseason wins for the Red Sox. He hopes to start making that come true when he takes the ball Friday for Game 2, with a 4:30 p.m. ET start time on TBS. In eight career postseason starts, Price is 0-7 with a 5.27 ERA. More >
Indians: Kluber gets the nod for Game 2 after a campaign worthy of consideration for his second career Cy Young Award. Kluber's season ended on a discouraging note, however, as he exited his final outing on Sept. 26 after four innings due to a mild quadriceps strain. Kluber is now considered fully healthy as he preps for his first career postseason start. More >