Indians ride Kluber, 4-run frame for 2-0 ALDS lead
By Jordan Bastian and Ian Browne
CLEVELAND -- Any October nerves that may have existed for this upstart Indians squad appear to have calmed and disappeared. With ace Corey Kluber on the hill, and a series lead in hand, Cleveland settled in and pieced together a workmanlike win over the Red Sox on Friday night at a raucous Progressive Field.
With their 6-0 victory in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, the Indians put the pressure on the Red Sox, as this best-of-five heads to Fenway Park with the Tribe up two games to none. Kluber performed like a former Cy Young Award winner, while David Price's old postseason woes persisted.
"It looks like it's just one more game for us," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "Guys look calm. They looked relaxed. Some of these guys who are younger and less experienced than I am are handling it way better than I handled my Wild Card Game [in 2013]. It's impressive.
"The team kind of feeds off each other. It's a fun group to be around. When it's that fun to be in our dugout, you almost forget how much pressure there is sometimes."
On a day when he would not normally be part of the starting lineup, Lonnie Chisenhall played the role of unexpected hero, launching a three-run homer off Price in the second that gave Kluber all the support he would require. That blast damaged the line of Price, who walked off the field to cheers from the Cleveland crowd after the shortest start ( 3 1/3 innings) of his playoff career.
For all his summer success, Price's postseason record dropped to 0-8 in nine career starts.
"Obviously the big blow was Chisenhall with the three-run homer," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "In a fastball count, or in a hitter count, he's trying to sink a ball down and in to keep him from getting extended. Doesn't get to the spot. Hits the ball for a three-run homer. After that, some inconsistent command. I felt like we needed to go to the 'pen shortly thereafter."
Heading to Boston with a 2-0 lead in the ALDS may feel familiar to Indians fans of a certain age. It was the same scenario in 1999, when the Red Sox then broke Cleveland's heart with three straight wins. In ALDS history, teams with a 2-0 leads have won 23 of 28 series. The overall showing for clubs with a 2-0 edge is 46-7, so that '99 collapse for the Indians was an outlier.
"Obviously, they played better than us," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "I think, coming into this series, we had a lot of guys the last couple of games feeling it out, everybody, me included. I think we lost who we are -- we're the Boston Red Sox. We need to go out there and play the game. We should dictate the tempo of the game and how everything should be played."
Despite what has happened over the past two days -- star pitchers Rick Porcello and Price allowing 10 runs combined in 7 2/3 innings, chief among the issues -- the Red Sox still boast baseball's highest-scoring offense. Boston also has an intimidating home environment at Fenway, which will surely be quaking when the team returns for Monday's Game 3 at 6 p.m. ET on TBS.
"We did what we were supposed to do," Kipnis said. "We handled our business at home the first two games. But, you don't advance by winning two games in this series. You advance by winning three. There's a big third one that we need to get."
Prior to Chisenhall's shot down the right-field line, Brandon Guyer -- one of the Tribe's under-the-radar trade acquisitions in July -- delivered a run-scoring single. Before the night was done, Kipnis tacked on an RBI single and Rajai Davis contributed a sacrifice fly.
In his return from a mild quadriceps injury, which forced him to leave his final regular-season start early and necessitated 10 days' rest, Kluber spun seven shutout innings against Boston's potent lineup. The right-hander painted the outside edge with his signature sinker, piled up seven strikeouts, scattered three hits and saved the bullpen a day after the group was pushed to the limits.
"We talked before the game about, 'Would he be a little bit rusty or would he be really good?'" Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think he answered that question."
"It's always fun playing behind Corey," Chisenhall said. "There's usually not too much going on. He's our workhorse. He was great today, maybe a little bit of rust, but everybody saw what he did."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Lonnie vs. the lefty: Chisenhall was a surprising addition to the lineup, considering he typically only starts against right-handed pitching. Francona wanted the best defensive alignment possible and also cited the outfielder's career showing (.364 average in 11 at-bats) against Price. The move paid off in the second, when Chisenhall ripped a 2-1 pitch over the right-field wall on a line for his first home run off a left-handed pitcher this season.
"He does a great job of putting us in the best situations possible," Chisenhall said of Francona. "I've benefited from it tonight and in the past. I think I have a handful of at-bats against Price in the past, but tonight, he wanted the defense out there, so anything I contributed was going to be positive."
Price's latest October mishap: Price badly wanted to reverse the narrative about the lack of success he's had in the postseason. Instead, he reached a low point by pitching fewer than six innings for the first time in nine career playoff starts. A day after Porcello lasted just 13 outs, Farrell had to pull Price after 10 outs. Price's ERA as a starter in the postseason is 5.74.
"We were fortunate right there," Chisenhall said. "He's throwing 200-plus innings a year, and to get him out that early, it was a good thing to see. You want to wear down the bullpen, and you definitely don't want to have Price on the mound for too long. So it was a perfect night."
Nap to Kip to Kluber With one out in the sixth inning, Kipnis pulled off a play that that was jaw-dropping for first baseman Mike Napoli. Brock Holt hit a sharp grounder to the right side, where it kicked off the heel of Napoli's glove. The first baseman spun around, searching for the ball, which Kipnis snared with a barehanded grab to Napoli's right. The second baseman fired it to Kluber, who gloved it and stepped on first for a highlight-reel out. The crowd roared in approval as Napoli stood in disbelief.
"On ground balls his way, I start heading that way anyways for pretty much that reason alone," Kipnis said. "In case of deflection, you want to be in the right position. Everything worked out our way on that play. I got a big thanks from him and a promise of wine at my locker. So, that's the most rewarding play I've made in a while."
Holt, Pedroia misplays lead to runs: In the fourth, at a time the Red Sox were trying to keep the deficit within striking distance, Holt, Boston's third baseman, made a costly error. Davis stung a grounder to third, and Holt bobbled it right next to the bag. Holt was able to step on third for the force, but if he had fielded it cleanly, it would have potentially been an inning-ending double play. Instead, Kipnis followed with an RBI single to make it 5-0. Two innings later, Pedroia admits he was too quick in trying to field a double-play grounder and had it go through his legs. Instead of the inning being over, the Indians went on to score another run on a sacrifice fly. It was just the second error for Pedroia in 46 career games in the postseason.
"Yeah I mean, shoot, the ball I missed tonight, he kind of hit it off the end and I charged it just, I should have sat back and got one out," Pedroia said. "But you're trying to get a double play and make things happen and I missed the ball. Those are physical mistakes. It happens. It's part of the game."
"He's been pushing the right buttons. Not just with the lineup, but with the bullpen the first day. I think you're seeing an experienced veteran manager who not only knows what he's doing, but he knows his team. He knows when he can push a little bit. He knows when he needs to pull back. So far, he's pushing all the right buttons." -- Kipnis, on Francona
"The nice part is we've got a little cushion, where we've just got to win one of the next three. But, I think everyone in this locker room doesn't want this getting past Game 3. We're going to go out and try to end this as soon as we can." -- Kipnis, on trying to finish off the Red Sox
"It's our home field, we're looking forward to getting back there. Obviously our back is against the wall. There's zero room for error. You have to play hard. You find out a lot about yourself and your team when you're in situations like this. I don't think anyone is ready to go home, that's for sure. We'll get to our workout tomorrow and come out and play as hard as we can." -- Pedroia
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kluber became the ninth pitcher in Indians postseason history to log at least seven shutout innings in a start. He joined Gene Bearden (Game 3 of the 1948 World Series) as the only pitchers in Cleveland history to do so in a playoff debut. Kluber's seven strikeouts were the most by an Indians pitcher in a postseason start.
On a day that not much went right for the Red Sox, Farrell at least got a replay overturned in the bottom of the fifth. Jose Ramirez was initially given credit for a steal of second, but the replay showed Pedroia slapping the tag down in time.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Righty Clay Buchholz, Boston's longest-tenured pitcher, gets the ball for Game 3 on Monday at 6 p.m. ET on TBS. The Red Sox went 6-2 at Fenway in their most recent postseason run -- back in 2013. Interestingly, Buchholz has never earned a decision in five postseason starts, posting a 4.21 ERA over 25 2/3 innings. Buchholz finished the regular season at his best, going 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA in his last seven starts.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin, who is the longest-tenured player in the organization, will start Game 3 at Fenway Park. Tomlin ended his season on a roll, posting a 1.69 ERA over the final month to overcome the August issues that temporarily cost him a spot in the rotation. Tomlin's 5.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year ranked second in the AL only to Boston's Rick Porcello.