The Cleveland Guardians took an early lead Friday night and never relinquished it, recording a rare 5-2 series-opening win over the Boston Red Sox to get back to .500.
It was clear from the first inning that Red Sox starting pitcher Nick Pivetta had his work cut out for him. He needed 32 pitches to get through the inning, and José Ramírez was responsible for 12 of them. After a Steven Kwan leadoff single and an Amed Rosario popout, Ramírez put together a Professional At-Bat™, fouling off seven pitches before lining a single into center field on a 3-2 fastball up in the zone. With Kwan having gone from first to third on the single, Josh Naylor hit a sac fly to the warning track in left field to give the Guardians a 1-0 lead. Ramírez took second on a wild pitch before scoring on a two-out Josh Bell RBI double off the Green Monster.
The next inning, Will Brennan reached base after taking a curveball off his right knee, before stealing second base to put himself in scoring position. Behind him, Myles Straw put together an impressive at-bat, battling back from an 0-2 count to line an RBI single into right field. Brennan was able to score from second, extending Cleveland’s lead to 3-0. Mike Zunino’s solo home run over the Green Monster — which had a .260 xBA — in the fourth inning made it 4-1.
Brennan contributed his first home run of the season in the ninth inning, wrapping a solo shot around the foul pole in right field for a 5-2 Guardians lead.
As has been the case for the first month of the season, Guardians starter Shane Bieber was solid but far from dominant. He didn’t have swing-and-miss stuff, only recording six whiffs all night (three of which came in his final inning of work). His best pitch was his four-seam fastball, which he used to pound the strike zone, throwing it for a called strike nearly 50% of the time.
Bieber was navigating around traffic as early as the second inning. After issuing a four-pitch walk to Triston Casas and giving up a one-out double to Jarren Duran, he surrendered up an RBI single to Kiké Hernández to cut Cleveland’s lead to 3-1. Fortunately, Reese McGuire grounded into an inning-ending double play, limiting the damage to a single run.
The only other run the Red Sox scored against Bieber came in the fifth inning. A one-out double by Enmanuel Valdez put runners on second and third, allowing Alex Verdugo to plate a run with an RBI groundout. The next groundout ended the inning, stranding Valdez at third.
Bieber went seven innings, giving up five hits, two walks, and two earned runs while striking out four. It is only the second time this season he has pitched seven innings.
Trevor Stephan took over in the eighth inning and found himself in hot water. A first-pitch fastball to Masataka Yoshida turned into a one-out double, and a first-pitch slider to Justin Turner turned into a single that put runners on first and third. With Rafael Devers at the plate, Stephan kicked his fastball velocity up a notch, pumping two four-seamers past Devers before punching him out with a splitter. Casas then grounded out to end the inning with no damage done.
Emmanuel Clase pitched a scoreless ninth to close it out.