Shortstop Xander Bogaerts belted a pair of Boston home runs, including a three-run blast to the left field bleachers against Indians reliever Nick Goody that put the game away in the seventh inning. Bogaerts’ fourth multi-homer game this season was also the sixth of his career, bringing his season total to 27 dingers.
Bogaerts home run came after Indians manager Terry Francona ordered the intentional walk to white-hot Rafael Devers, who was 8-for-9 since Tuesday’s game entering the at-bat in the seventh.
“A little bit like pick your poison,” Francona said. “Devers is on a streak right now that looks like he’s playing softball. It doesn’t make me feel good about the result, but I would have a harder time pitching to him with an open base. That didn’t make sense.”
Cleveland (72-49) remained a half-game behind Minnesota (72-48) in the American League Central Division with the Twins losing a late lead on Wednesday in Milwaukee.
After fighting back from a four-run deficit to force extra innings Tuesday night, Cleveland’s offense could not break through against Red Sox opener Brian Johnson and a parade of six relievers out of a bullpen that ranked No. 8 in the AL entering the contest. Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 5.77) picked up his first win in 14 appearances after striking out a pair in two innings.
Boston took a 2-0 lead against Indians starter Shane Bieber (12-5, 3.27) in the third on back-to-back home runs by Rafael Devers and Bogaerts. It was the eighth time the Red Sox hit back-to-back shots this season and the second time Devers and Bogaerts have combined to accomplish the feat.
Devers’ 25th home run capped a streak of eight hits in consecutive at-bats after his single in the first inning and a 6-for-6 performance Tuesday, including four doubles. He entered the game hitting .343 with a 1.031 OPS and 11 career RBI against Cleveland.
Bieber settled in and fired 3 2/3 scoreless frames after the Bogaerts homer. He finished with seven strikeouts and one walk, allowing seven hits. His fifth-inning strikeout of J.D. Martinez was his 200th of the year, making him the youngest Indians pitcher at age 24 with 200 whiffs in a single season since Dennis Eckersley (age 21) in 1976.
“I tell you what, he gave up the two solo homers, but other than that he battled,” Francona said of Bieber. “He woke up feeling sick and was nauseous the entire game — and he gave us six innings. There was a chance he was coming out after two innings, but he stayed out for six and gave us a chance to win the game.”
Sloppy defense by Boston in the third inning led to an unearned run for the Indians when Francisco Lindor reached on an infield hit and moved to second on a throwing error by Bogaerts. Oscar Mercado then chopped a grounder that got under Devers’ glove at third for another error and Lindor later scored on a Johnson wild pitch to cut the Tribe’s deficit in half.
But the offense struggled again to come up with a clutch hit with runners on base, going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranding seven. Franmil Reyes and Kevin Plawecki stranded a pair of runners each and Jose Ramirez left three on base, including a pop out to center in the fifth after Oscar Mercado and Carlos Santana had reached with two out.
The Indians travel to New York City for seven games in eight days against the Yankees and Mets. Thursday’s opener in the Bronx features Tribe right-hander Adam Plutko (4-3, 4.68) facing a yet-to-be-announced Yankees starter. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. and the came will air on SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM.
Plutko is 1-0 in his career against the Yankees after earning a home win June 8 by allowing two runs on three hits in six innings. He is 1-1 with a 5.47 ERA in five road appearances in 2019 and will be making his first career appearance at Yankee Stadium.