Indians 6, Red Sox 0
Indians lead series, 2-0
It was a day that you wish you could bottle for a cold winter’s evening. The weather was beautiful, perhaps the last warm day of the year. Progressive Field was once again filled to the brim with fans, LeBron James among them. And the home team dominated from start to finish. Everything was as you’d dreamed it would be.
Before the 2016 season, David Price signed a $217 million contract with the Red Sox. Price earned that deal through consistent excellence in eight major-league seasons after being selected as the top overall selection in the 2007 draft. But the one thing he hadn’t done in his young distinguished career was to pitch well as a starter in the postseason.
Corey Kluber didn’t have the amateur pedigree that Price had and came to fame relatively late in his professional career, and so today was making his first postseason appearance. Kluber, who missed his last start of the regular season with a minor quad injury, was pitching on 10 days’ rest and had the unenviable task of facing down a Boston lineup that was barely held in check in Game 1.
As of this moment, it hasn’t been a very good day for highly-paid aces in the ALDS/NLDS. Cole Hamels was blitzed yesterday. Yu Darvish gave up five runs in five innings today. Clayton Kershaw lasted only five innings, allowing eight hits and three runs. And in this game, David Price -- the $217 million ace -- was chased from the game in the fourth inning.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, for as the saying goes, you cannot read history backwards. Price had a quick first inning and retired Mike Napoli to start the second. At this point, you still were thinking that the Indians would need to steal a run or two off price, then hope that Kluber and the bullpen could hold the dynamic Red Sox attack at bay. After all, Price has had all kinds of success against the Indians in Cleveland, including a fine start on this past Opening Day. But then, with one out in the second inning, the Tribe offense awoke. Carlos Santana hit a single through the left side of the infield. Jose Ramirez reached on a perfectly-placed infield hit. Then Brandon Guyer, who was acquired precisely for a situation like this, gave the Indians the lead when he blooped a single into center field. Ramirez scampered to third on the play, and you were hoping that the Indians would be able to get a second run out of this fortunate rally.
Then Lonnie Chisenhall stepped to the plate. Most of the season Chisenhall had been part of a platoon, first with Marlon Byrd, and then later with Brandon Guyer. But today he was in the lineup against a left-hander, perhaps because Francona chose the better defensive arragement or perhaps because Chisenhall had actually had some success in a small sample size against Price. But whatever the reason, it paid itself off with one swing of the bat. He lined a ball that just barely cleared the right field wall for a three-run homer, a homer that would allow the Indians and their fans to rest easy for the remainder of the game.
For although many aces have struggled over the past couple days, Corey Kluber did not. He was not at his best, missing in the zone with his breaking pitches, but even so, Kluber harnessed what he had to shut out the vaunted Red Sox over 7+ innings. He had excellent command of his fastballs and kept the Boston hitters off balance by pitching inside, something that David Price didn’t do. He had some tricky situations to work out of, he at times let batters back into counts, but didn’t a mistake. He made a couple perfect pitches, but the more important thing was he made a lot of good pitches.
Another factor in the 6-0 victory was defense. Boston had two miscues that led directly to tack-on runs; both Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia flubbed potential double balls, and the Indians took advantage of each to increase their lead by a run.
After last night’s war of bullpen attrition, Kluber’s 7+ shutout innings allowed Terry Francona to rest both Andrew Miller (although he did warm up at one point) and Cody Allen. So both pitchers will go into Sunday’s game with two days of rest under their belts. Dan Otero got the Indians out of a jam in the eighth, stranding two inherited runners, and Bryan Shaw pitched a perfect ninth to finish off a perfect playoff evening.