Indians look to take series from Red Sox
BOSTON — Back on May 31 and June 1, the Boston Red Sox dropped the first two games of a four-game series in Houston, a meeting of two division leaders at that time.
Fast forward to this week when the Cleveland Indians, the runaway leaders of the Central Division of the American League, came to Fenway and won the first two of a four-game series between division leaders.
Again, the Red Sox, now fairly comfortably ahead in the East, rebounded in Game 3, winning 10-4 Wednesday night — and will go for a series split when Boston left-hander David Price heads to the mound for the matinee series finale.
For the second time in the series, the Indians send a rookie starter out as Adam Plutko faces Price.
If history is any indication, it will be a tough assignment for Plutko. Price comes in with a 10-2 record and a 2.24 ERA lifetime against the Indians, and he is also 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last six starts overall.
Price said he made “adjustments” that have helped him raise his record to 13-6 to go with a 3.69 ERA.
Plutko is 4-3 with a 4.62 ERA in 10 games — including seven starts — for manager Terry Francona. His last time out, he took the loss while turning in a quality start, going seven innings and allowing three hits, three runs and a walk along with six strikeouts in a 4-2 defeat to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
He has never faced the Red Sox, who avoided what would have been their first four-game losing streak of the season and ended only their second three-game skid by pounding out 14 hits, including three homers — two by Xander Bogaerts. The New York Yankees lost, so Boston’s lead atop the East is back to nine games.
While Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are getting all kinds of MVP talk, Bogaerts’ two solo shots Wednesday gave him 19 homers and 80 RBIs for the season. He has his 19 homers in 404 at-bats after hitting 10 in 571 at-bats last season.
Bogaerts has 23 multi-RBI games in 106 games played and has driven in six in the last three games.
The Boston offense had been quiet but woke up against 15-game winner Carlos Carrasco and the Cleveland bullpen.
“Our mindset hasn’t changed,” said Boston’s Mitch Moreland, who also homered. “We come in ready to go every day. You couldn’t tell if we won or lost yesterday after we walked in. That’s the beauty of this group.”
The bright spot for the Indians on Wednesday night was the return of Edwin Encarnacion from the disabled list. He hit a pair of two-run homers, the first on his first swing off the DL.
“Oh man, what a nice way to get him back,” said Francona. “To take a swing like he did the first at-bat, I’m sure helps you just to relax at the plate. So that was really nice to see.”
Melky Cabrera is 10-for-32 (.313) with two homers, Jason Kipnis is 8-for-26 and Encarnacion has four homers in 49 career at-bats against Price. But Yan Gomes is just 1-for-18 (.056), Jose Ramirez 1-for-9 (.111) and Michael Brantley 6-for-27 (.222) against the veteran left-hander.
Earlier Wednesday, the Indians announced that Leonys Martin, who survived a life-threatening bacterial infection and was released from the hospital Sunday, will miss the rest of the season. They also announced Rajai Davis will be out until after Sept. 1 following an undisclosed non-baseball-related surgery.
On Martin, Francona said, “The news is really good, he is doing fantastic, but he’s not going to play baseball this year. Overall, he has done so well. We’re so thrilled that he’s OK.”