BOSTON -- In what has to be considered, to date, the "Game of the Year," Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez hammered a three-run walk-off homer off Indians closer Cody Allen over the Green Monster to give the Red Sox an epic 12-10 seesaw victory over the Indians on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
This was a game that had everything, including several wild shifts in momentum and one of the best catches you'll ever see, by Indians center fielder Austin Jackson, who jumped into Boston's bullpen to take a home run away from Hanley Ramirez in the fifth and preserve, for the time being, a two-run lead for Cleveland.
The Indians took a 3-0 lead in the first and added two in the second. Boston tied it in the bottom half of the inning. Cleveland added two in the fifth; Boston answered with four in the sixth. And then the lead changed in the both the top and bottom of the ninth, capped by Vazquez sending everyone home with just his second home run of the season.
"That's my first one, man. My first walk-off," said Vazquez. "It was special. My dad was here and my family was here. It was great for them to see that."
What more could you want? With nearly two months still to play this season, it's safe to say this will go down as one of the most memorable contests of the season.
"Yeah, this is a PlayStation game, you know? You keep bouncing back and forth," said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. "It was good that we came out on top. That's exactly what we needed. The Yankees lost today. So it was a perfect win tonight for us."
In the pivotal ninth, the Indians came back to tie it with Francisco Lindor's opposite-field solo shot over the Green Monster off Craig Kimbrel, on a 99-mph, 0-2 pitch.
"I'm just trying to get on base, trying to make something happen," Lindor said. "I was trying to get on base and get a good pitch to hit."
After Carlos Santana's walk loaded the bases with two outs, Kimbrel uncorked a wild pitch and Jose Ramirez came roaring in for the go-ahead run.
But the Red Sox, who already has come back from deficits of 5-0 and 9-7, were not to be denied.
After Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. flied out to start the inning off Allen, rookie third baseman Rafael Devers reached on a soft tapper to third. Bogaerts flew out for the second out. Mitch Moreland then tried, and failed, to check his swing on strike three, but he reached first safely when the ball bounced past catcher Yan Gomes for a wild pitch, keeping the Red Sox alive.
"That's a tough one," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The pitch that can get him is the one that can get away. Moreland was swinging the bat so well tonight that you almost had to get a breaking ball out of the zone."
Another wild pitch by Allen moved the tying run to third and the winning run to second, taking some pressure off Vazquez, who worked the count to 3-1. The catcher then blasted an inside fastball, a towering 408-foot shot to left-center field for the game-winner, just the fourth home run of his career, setting off euphoria at home plate and throughout the stands.
"I was trying to drive the ball to the middle of the field. After that wild pitch, 2-1, I was trying to not do too much and just hit the ball," said Vazquez. "It was a tough game. There were a lot of ups and downs. We never quit and kept grinding and kept fighting and we got the win."
The win put the Red Sox back into first place in the American League East, by a half-game over the Yankees. The Indians maintained a two-game edge over the Royals in the Central.
"It was an unbelievable ballgame," Allen said. "I wish we would've thrown the ball a little bit better as a staff, all around. We pulled ahead and they'd come right back. We pulled ahead again and they come take the lead. Our offense does an unreal job against one of the best in baseball to give us a lead there and, unfortunately, I wasn't able to hold it down."
The buzz early on was over the amazing catch by Jackson, setting off a huge ovation from the Fenway crowd, a classy nod of appreciation for the visiting player.
"That was awesome," said Jackson. "I was just so pumped up, it's like I didn't even hear. I was just pumped up for us. I'm glad I was able to hold on to it, especially going over like that. I could have easily dropped it. I was able to hold on to it and get the out."
Both Kimbrel and Allen, the respective closers, struggled in this one, but they were far from alone. Eduardo Nunez smoked a three-run double against Andrew Miller to put Boston up, 9-7, in the sixth.
And Red Sox ace Chris Sale had a rare off-night, giving up five runs over the first two innings. But the Red Sox came right back, putting up a five-spot in the bottom of the second against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco. Moreland's three-run homer was the big hit of the inning.
Just when it seemed Sale was settling back in, Edwin Encarnacion took him deep for a two-run homer in the top of the fifth to put the Indians up, 7-5.
"Oh boy, you talk about a roller-coaster game," said Francona. "When you jump out 5-0 on Sale, man, that's doing something. Then they came storming back and from there it was just back and forth, to where Frankie hits that 0-2 pitch out and it's like, 'My goodness.' And then we get another one. We just couldn't hold it. It's a tough one to lose. I think that's kind of stating the obvious."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jackson goes up, over and in: In one of the most thrilling catches of the season, Indians center fielder Jackson took a home run away from Ramirez in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ramirez drilled a pitch from Indians reliever Dan Otero to deep center, where the ball appeared destined for Boston's bullpen. Jackson sprinted to his left, closed in on the short wall in center and made a leaping catch. After snaring the ball from the sky, Jackson tumbled over the wall and disappeared from view. The crowd roared in disbelief when he quickly stood with his glove raised to signal he had made the grab.
"I just wanted to try to get back to the wall and try to read it," Jackson said. "I got back and I tried to get to the fence first. When I jumped and caught it, I realized I was about to take a tumble to the other side. Luckily, I was able to grab the fence a little bit and I flipped over. That was awesome. I was just so pumped up."
Francona, who more than familiar with Fenway Park's quirky dimensions from his years managing the Red Sox, was blown away by the catch.
"That was one of the best catches I think I've ever seen," Francona said. "I mean, I've been in the game a long time. That's a hard wall out there and a lot of guys run away from it. Austin went up and over. That was one of the most exciting plays I've seen in a long, long time."
Wild strikeout keeps classic going: Allen had just struck out Moreland on a knuckle-curve in the dirt, and it looked like the Indians were about to celebrate a win. But the pitch bounced to the backstop and Moreland reached on the wild pitch. That extended the game for Vazquez.
"Luckily the catcher didn't know where it was," said Moreland. "Yeah, I guess going from pretty low to being on base, I'll take it in that situation every time." More >
"That's definitely the craziest catch I ever saw. At first, I didn't think he would even catch it. The ball just kept carrying and I was like, 'Oh, man.' For him to catch it and hold on and stick the landing and everything, I've never seen anything like it. Man. That will go down as one of the best catches of all-time." -- Indians right fielder Brandon Guyer
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Sale has struggled against the Indians throughout his career. In 17 career starts against Cleveland, the lefty is 5-7 with a 4.81 ERA (54 earned runs in 101 innings). Sale has allowed 13 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings in his past two starts vs. the Tribe.
Lindor's ninth-inning home run gave him six this season in late-and-close situations (similar to the criteria for a save). The Indians shortstop ranks second in the Majors in homers and RBIs (14) in late-and-close scenarios.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (9-8, 5.25 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe in a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against the Red Sox on Wednesday, wrapping up this three-game series. Bauer last faced Boston in Game 1 of the 2016 AL Division Series, allowing three runs over 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision.
Red Sox: Right-hander Rick Porcello (4-14, 4.55 ERA) will try to get his first win since June 23 when he pitches the finale of this three-game series on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Porcello has been an innings-eater all season for the Red Sox, going at least six innings in all but one of his 22 starts.