Tzu-Wei Lin delivered the tie-breaking RBI infield single in the seventh inning Friday night and hit his first major league homer in the ninth as the Boston Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians, 7-5, in the opener of a three-game series between division champions at Progressive Field.
The Red Sox, who clinched the American League East on Thursday, improved to 105-49 despite fielding a lineup that included only two regulars — third baseman Rafael Devers and AL MVP candidate J.D. Martinez. Boston needs just one win to clinch the best record in MLB for the season.
The Red Sox’s 105th victory tied the franchise record for wins, set by the 1912 team.
The Indians (85-68), who will be locked into a first-round postseason date with either the Astros or Oakland Athletics as soon as the Red Sox win the top seed, have lost three of five since clinching their third straight AL Central title last Saturday.
A pair of rehabbing Cy Young contenders started, though neither the Red Sox’s Chris Sale nor the Indians’ Trevor Bauer pitched long enough to factor into the decision.
Sale, making his third start of the month and just his fourth since July 28, allowed two runs on five hits and no walks while striking out seven over 3 1/3 innings. A solo homer by Josh Donaldson with one out in the fourth ended Sale’s consecutive scoreless innings streak at 35 2/3 dating back to July 6. Sale, whose ERA rose to 2.00. took two trips to the disabled list in the interim because of a sore shoulder.
Bauer, who was pitching for the first time since he suffered a fractured fibula after being hit by a comebacker on Aug. 11, allowed two hits and a walk while striking out one over 1 1/3 scoreless innings in lowering his ERA to 2.21.
Yan Gomes hit a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Indians a 3-1 lead. Jose Ramirez’s sacrifice fly in the fifth extended the lead to 4-1.
Devers began the Boston comeback with a solo homer in the sixth. Sam Travis, whose homer to lead off the third inning gave Boston a brief lead, delivered a game-tying two-run double in the seventh before Lin and Devers collected run-scoring singles to make the score 6-4.
Ramirez’s RBI double pulled the Indians within one in the bottom of the inning.
Lin’s ninth-inning home run added an insurance run.
Matt Barnes (6-3), the fourth of nine Red Sox pitchers, earned the win with a scoreless sixth. Craig Kimbrel notched his 42nd save with a perfect ninth.
Shane Bieber (10-5), the third of five Indians pitchers, took the loss after allowing six runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out one over 4 2/3 innings.
–Field Level Media