Division leaders Red Sox, Indians face off at Fenway

BOSTON — The Cleveland Indians have played well since the third game of their series at Fenway Park was rained out Aug. 2.

The Boston Red Sox have played better.

The Indians, the leaders of the American League Central, posted six wins in their past 10 games, increasing their division lead to 4 1/2 games as they return to Boston for a Monday night makeup game.

The Red Sox won the two games played in the previous series 6-2 and 12-10 — the latter one of those games considered an instant classic. They went on to win their next six for an eight-game streak. They lost a game in New York they should have won Friday night, then beat the Yankees twice in a row, including dramatic 5-4, 10-inning win Sunday night.

The Red Sox lead the AL East by 5 1/2 games — their biggest edge of the season — as they open what is now a six-game homestand that also includes visits by the St. Louis Cardinals and the Yankees.

With the Indians and Red Sox heading for a possible AL Division Series rematch in October, a red-hot Trevor Bauer goes for Cleveland against Doug Fister on Monday night.

“I’d rather have the day off in Minnesota, just because Boston’s got a really good team and they’re playing well,” Indians manager Terry Francona said Sunday. “It’s OK. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal.”

And, as Francona, the man who led the Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles, points out, “I get to see the grandkids, so I’m happy.”

The Indians arrive at Fenway Park after taking three of four at Tampa Bay, including a 4-3 victory Sunday.

Bauer is 10-8 with a 4.79 ERA, but his numbers lately have been outstanding. He has won his past three decisions, over four starts, allowing six runs and striking out 28 in 27 innings during that stretch. For the year, his 9.95 strikeouts per nine innings are a career high.

Fister (2-5, 5.03 ERA) also has pitched well recently. He took the mound July 31 with an 0-5 record since joining the Red Sox, but he went 7 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, to beat the Indians that night. He then also won his next start.

He gave up a total of five runs and two walks while striking out 12 in 14 innings over those starts.

“That’s been extremely helpful, and certainly we’ve missed David Price in the rotation, that goes without saying,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “But to have Doug to step in with the veteran presence he has, to his credit, some of the minor adjustments that he’s made to solidify his pitch execution, that’s been the case the last four appearances for him. He’s been a huge plus to have that kind of veteran guy to plug in when needed.”

Bauer is 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA in three career games, including two starts, in the regular season against Boston. He also started and pitched 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision in last year’s ALDS, which was swept by the Indians.

He has not faced Boston this season.

Fister is 6-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 17 career starts against Cleveland.

All three of the Indians hitters who have done well against Fister lifetime — Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis — are hurt, although Kipnis, 12-for-27 (.444) against the right-hander, is expected to play Monday. He aggravated a hamstring ailment that put him on the disabled list, but he entered the Sunday game in the seventh inning.

Yan Gomes is 1-for-8 (.125), Austin Jackson 3-for-20 (.150), Carlos Santana 6-for-36 (.167), newly acquired Jay Bruce 1-for-6 (.167) and Edwin Encarnacion 4-for-22 (.182) against Fister.

The current Red Sox don’t have all that many at-bats against Bauer. Mookie Betts is 3-for-5 (.600) and Hanley Ramirez 2-for-5 (.400) vs. the right-hander, but Mitch Moreland is 0-for-6, Xander Bogaerts 1-for-6 (.167) and Eduardo Nunez 2-for-9 (.222).