CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Indians’ next game in Cleveland will be Game 3 of the American League Division series on Oct. 8. If Sunday’s regular season-home finale is a harbinger of what’s to come, fans are in for one heckuva postseason ride.
Cleveland closed out a nine-game homestand with its second straight walk-off win — and third in five games — posting a 4-3 victory against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night at Progressive Field.
Greg Allen’s RBI single against Boston’s Robby Scott scored Jose Ramirez in the bottom of the 11th inning for the game-winning run. It was the third extra-inning game in the last four days for Cleveland and the Tribe’s second straight walk-off victory against the American League East champs.
“If that game tonight was in a couple weeks, that’d be one for the ages,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “Tonight, it’s going to be a late night. But it was a fun game.”
The Indians turned away Boston’s attempt to set franchise records for road victories and overall wins in a season, and for at least one night kept the Red Sox from clinching home-field advantage throughout the MLB playoffs.
Boston rookie William Cuevas stymied Indians hitters across a career-high five innings of relief work. Cuevas (0-2, 3.78), who entered in the sixth, struck out four and walked two. He did not allow a hit until a one-out double by Jason Kipnis and an infield single by Eric Haase in the 10th.
But Cuevas walked Ramirez to open the 11th and Erik Gonzalez reached on an error by shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin. Scott relieved Cuevas and intentionally walked pinch hitter Yandy Diaz to set up Allen’s game-winning at-bat.
Allen, whose only other career walk-off at-bat came May 27 against Houston, said it was just a matter of getting a pitch that he could handle against Scott.
“I had to grind out that A-B,” Allen said. He made some good pitches. I had to foul off a few. I was fortunate to be able to get some bat on that one and find a hole.”
Five Cleveland relievers combined to log five scoreless innings of their own, limiting the Red Sox lineup to three hits while striking out five. Josh Tomlin (2-5, 6.44) earned the win with two scoreless innings, including a pair of strikeouts.
Cleveland rallied to take the lead with three runs in the fourth inning after Michael Brantley scorched a single and later advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw by Boston starter Hector Velazquez. Edwin Encarnacion drove Brantley in with a single and later scored on an RBI double by Melky Cabrera against righty knuckleballer Steven Wright.
Cabrera, a switch-hitter, defied convention and batted right-handed against Wright, serving an 0-2 knuckler into the right field corner for his 37th and 38th RBI of the year. It was his 15th double and 21st extra-base hit in 71 games.
Encarnacion’s RBI was his 100th of the season, joining Ramirez at the century mark. Encarnacion and Ramirez become the first Indians teammates to drive in at least 100 since Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner did so in 2007. He reached the 100-RBI plateau for the fourth straight season and the sixth time in the last seven years.
But Boston’s Mookie Betts tied the score at 3 with a leadoff solo homer against Indians starter Adam Plutko in the top of the fifth. The American League MVP candidate, playing for the first time in the series, went 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles, an RBI and two runs scored. He doubled off the center field wall in the first inning, moved to third on an Andrew Benintendi sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch with Rafael Devers batting.
Plutko pitched six innings and allowed three runs on five hits, striking out a pair and walking three.
“Our defense is unbelievable,” Plutko said. “I only struck out two across six innings and then our bullpen didn’t give up another run from there. All around a huge team win in general tonight.”
Cleveland wasted a scoring chance in the second inning after an Encarnacion leadoff triple. Encarnacion was tagged out at the plate when Xander Bogaerts threw home on a fielder’s choice grounder by Josh Donaldson. Yonder Alonso followed with a base hit, but Cabrera grounded into a double play to end the inning.
What it means
Cleveland improved to 19-21 in regular-season games against Boston since Terry Francona became manager in 2013. The Indians won the 2018 season series against the Red Sox, 4-3.
Perez exits early
Roberto Perez left Sunday’s game in the bottom of the fifth inning after suffering a right shoulder bruise on a first-pitch strike to Boston’s Steve Pearce in the third inning. Pearce swung through a 91 mph fastball from Plutko that clipped Perez in the arm. Rookie Eric Haase replaced Perez.
Velazquez threw 54 pitches, 37 (69 percent) for strikes. Plutko threw 109 pitches, 68 (62 percent) for strikes.
Thanks for coming
The Red Sox and Indians drew 27,879 to Progressive Field on Sunday. First pitch was at 7:07 p.m. with a temperature of 68 degrees. Cleveland drew 1,926,701 fans during the 2018 regular season, averaging 24,084 across 80 dates that included one doubleheader.
The Indians begin their final road trip of the regular season on Monday in Chicago when they play the White Sox at 8:10 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
Right-hander Corey Kluber (19-7, 2.93) will start for the Indians while Chicago counters with Dylan Covey (5-13, 5.33). Kluber will try to become the Tribe’s first 20-game winner since Cliff Lee went 22-3 in 2008.