CLEVELAND — The Red Sox played these three games at Progressive Field like something of a last stand, and their first series victory since late July was the payoff.
Boston went bullpenning Wednesday afternoon and lived to tell the tale. Six different pitchers followed spot starter Brian Johnson to the mound, and three key swings from the lineup made the difference.
Xander Bogaerts provided two of those. His pair of home runs included a three-run dagger in the top of the seventh inning, as the Red Sox flashed championship character yet again in a 5-1 win over the Indians.
Boston enters a scheduled off day on Thursday and a five-game home stand against Baltimore and Philadelphia with some sorely-needed momentum. The Red Sox have scraped to a 5-4 mark since suffering through an eight-game losing streak – their worst since July 2015. This does indeed fell like a team trying to take one final desperate shot at a run toward an American League wild card spot.
It was a 2-1 game into the seventh when Mookie Betts lashed a one-out double off the wall in left. Rafael Devers was intentionally walked and Bogaerts waited out right-hander Nick Goody after going down in the count 0-and-2. Bogaerts finally picked on a hanging slider and drilled it to the bleachers in deep left, giving Boston a four-run cushion.
Marcus Walden, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Cashner and Brandon Workman all turned in scoreless outings behind Johnson, who allowed a lone unearned run in the bottom of the third. The Red Sox relief corps covered the final 19 outs while allowing just three hits and issuing a lone walk. Just one Cleveland runner reached scoring position over the last six innings.
Both runs allowed by Cleveland right-hander Shane Bieber came within a span of three pitches. Devers and Bogaerts drove back-to-back solo homers in the top of the third, giving Boston a 2-0 lead. Bieber stranded the final three men he allowed to reach safely, requiring 107 pitches to finish six innings.
It was the eighth hit in as many at-bats for Devers after a single in the first and a historic 6-for-6 outburst on Tuesday. He launched a drive to the edge of the bleachers in left, just clearing the high wall. Devers is the first Red Sox player to record hits in eight straight at-bats since Pinky Higgins did the honors in 1938.
It was the 25th home run of the season for Devers, briefly tying Bogaerts for second on the club. The shortstop reclaimed that spot all to himself when he sent an 0-and-2 pitch down the line in right for his 100th career home run, the sixth shortstop in Red Sox history to reach the century mark. It was the start of the fourth multi-homer game for Bogaerts this season.
The Indians managed their lone run in the third. Errors by Bogaerts and Devers and a wild pitch by Johnson brought Francisco Lindor across, but Boston was able to escape the jam. Walden was summoned with two men on and induced a fielder’s choice grounder to short from Franmil Reyes, ending one of few serious threats mustered by Cleveland all afternoon.
Monday night’s walkoff loss was the 12th for Boston in its last 15 games. The Red Sox managed to rebound by handing the Indians consecutive defeats for just the third time since June. The Indians were a red-hot 43-17 in their last 60 games before falling in extra innings on Tuesday and again in the Wednesday matinee.