Both the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox entered 2015 with playoff aspirations that went unmet.
The Indians do have a chance to close out their campaign with a series sweep Sunday when the clubs face off at Progressive Field.
Cleveland (80-80) couldn’t overcome a 10-19 start but is finishing strong, having gone 22-15 since Aug. 25 for the AL’s third-best winning percentage behind playoff entrants Toronto and Texas. A victory can secure a third finish above .500 in ex-Red Sox skipper Terry Francona’s four seasons.
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”In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean a lot but cosmetically it looks better," Francona said. "Regardless of what happens, it’s the last game of the season and since we have a game I’d prefer to win,”
Boston (78-83) is 17-11 since Sept. 4 but has scored just three runs while losing three straight. After recording five hits in Friday’s 5-2 defeat, the Red Sox managed three singles off Corey Kluber in eight innings of their 2-0 setback on a cold and soggy night.
”Pitchers probably had an advantage in these conditions, but that was not the reason why we struggled,” Red Sox manager Torey Lovullo said. ”Give all the credit to Kluber. I think he was feeling very good out there tonight.”
Kluber fanned nine to finish with 245. The Indians lead the AL with 1,397 strikeouts with Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar all among the top eight in that category.
Salazar (13-10, 3.51 ERA) has dealt with scant support as well of late, with the Indians scoring once in consecutive road losses to Minnesota and Kansas City. He received no backing while allowing two runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 3-0 defeat to the Royals on Sept. 27.
Cleveland has won five of Salazar’s last five home assignments, during which he’s 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA and permitted two or less runs each time. The right-hander is 6-2 with a 3.06 in 11 overall starts at Progressive Field in 2015.
Salazar also won his lone prior encounter with the Red Sox Aug. 17, yielding a run and four hits through seven innings of an 8-2 triumph at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox have lost five straight in Cleveland since a three-game sweep April 16-18, 2013.
Rick Porcello (9-14, 5.02) has had more recent success against the Indians, having won four consecutive meetings while posting a 1.09 ERA. He’s 5-2 with a 2.86 ERA in 11 starts at Progressive Field, where he last tossed six shutout innings with Detroit on June 20, 2014.
Porcello is 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA in seven starts since returning from a triceps strain Aug. 26 and stopped a two-start losing streak by permitting four runs with eight strikeouts over eight innings in Tuesday’s 10-4 win over the New York Yankees.
The right-hander has also made strides on the road, compiling a 3-1 record with a 3.86 ERA in his last four starts after having a 5.82 ERA through his first 14.
Carlos Santana went 2 for 3 with a solo homer Saturday and is hitting .324 with three homers off Porcello, while Yan Gomes is 5 for 10 in the matchup.
Boston’s Mookie Betts drew a walk Saturday to reach base safely in his 36th consecutive game. He’s hitting .360 with 32 runs scored over the stretch.
David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia were held out of Saturday’s lineup due to the wet conditions but are expected to play in the finale.