Battered Indians go against Boston’s Sale in finale

CLEVELAND — What’s left of the Cleveland Indians will host the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night in the finale of a four-game series at Progressive Field.

The bruised and battered Indians will come limping into the game. Cleveland has nine players on the disabled list, including second baseman Jason Kipnis, left fielder Michael Brantley and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall — plus 40 percent of the rotation, Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin, and the club’s best reliever, Andrew Miller.

A 10th player, first baseman Carlos Santana, isn’t on the disabled list, but he missed the past two games due to lower back tightness.

Not surprisingly, the Indians lost the past two games against Boston, managing a total of two runs on four hits. Four Red Sox pitchers combined on a three-hitter Wednesday en route to a 6-1 win.

Indians manager Terry Francona won’t use the injuries as an excuse.

“Teams on the other side aren’t going to feel sorry for us,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have everybody. That doesn’t mean you can’t win. It just makes it more challenging. But we’re not going to back down. We’re going to keep fighting.”

Making matters worse for the Indians: Thursday night they will face Boston ace Chris Sale, the leading candidate to win the American League Cy Young Award.

Sale (14-5, 2.62 ERA) leads the American League in several pitching categories, including ERA and strikeouts (250). The Indians, however, have historically done well against Sale, a pitcher they saw numerous times when the left-hander was pitching for the AL Central rival Chicago White Sox.

In 28 career appearances (17 starts) against Cleveland, Sale is 5-7 with a 4.44 ERA. That is Sale’s highest career ERA vs. any opponent in the majors against whom he has made more than two appearances.

Sale’s last start against the Indians was a bumpy one. It came on Aug. 1, a 12-10 Boston victory in which Sale didn’t figure in the decision but still took his lumps. He pitched five innings, matching his shortest outing of the year, and gave up seven earned runs, the most he has allowed in a game this season, while recording a season-low five strikeouts.

Sale lost his last start 4-3 to the New York Yankees on Saturday. He allowed four runs on seven hits, including two homers, in seven innings, with nine strikeouts and one walk.

The Red Sox are expected to have a new center fielder Thursday. Jackie Bradley Jr. was placed on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday due to a sprained left thumb. Boston reacted to that by acquiring outfielder Rajai Davis in a trade with the Oakland A’s.

Davis will join the team Thursday and is expected to play center field.

“He’s a guy with postseason experience and adds the speed element,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s a good fit for us at a really important time.”

Cleveland’s starter Thursday night will be Trevor Bauer, who is quietly having a career year. Bauer (12-8, 4.50 ERA) hasn’t lost a game since July 16. In seven appearances (six starts) since then, he is 5-0 with a 1.99 ERA.

One of those wins came in Boston on Aug. 14, when Bauer pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts in a 7-3 Cleveland victory.

In four career appearances vs. the Red Sox, Bauer is 1-2 with an 8.79 ERA.