The Indians saw the old version of Doug Fister that they have faced numerous times over the years and not the player who had struggled to find a consistent spot in the Majors as the veteran right-hander returned to the Red Sox rotation and shut down the Cleveland offense over seven and two-thirds innings before a late Tribe homer in a 6-2 win by Boston on Monday night.
Fister was in prime form in the series opener from Fenway Park as the Indians’ struggles in the oldest ball park in the Majors continued. Mike Clevinger had a tough time on the mound for the Indians for a second straight start and did so in his first game against the Red Sox in his career.
Command was an issue in the early going for Clevinger, but he worked around a pair of first inning walks unscathed. His offense would put two on with only one out in the next half inning, but Fister worked out of it in what would be one of just two tough innings for the 33-year-old.
After falling short in the first, the Red Sox tallied three in the second and nearly had more. Rookie Rafael Devers singled before a pair of outs left Mitch Moreland standing at first with the inning hanging by a thread. Christian Vazquez grounded to third, but Jose Ramirez could not field the ball and it rolled to Michael Brantley in left for a generously ruled double for the catcher. With the inning still alive, Mookie Betts delivered on the next pitch, lining a single to center that scored both Moreland and Vazquez to put Boston up, 2-0. After Brock Holt walked and Betts went to third on a throwing error by Yan Gomes, Eduardo Nunez continued the torrid start to his Red Sox career with a double to left. Betts scored with ease, but Holt would be thrown out at the plate on a strike from left by Brantley to keep the score at just 3-0.
Fister had retired six straight before a walk by Ramirez in the fourth, but he would be erased on a double play ball off of the bat of Edwin Encarnacion. The Red Sox then got back to work to expand on their lead after Clevinger walked Moreland on four straight to start the home half of the inning. Vazquez moved him to second on a single and another RBI-base knock from Betts scored Moreland to make it 4-0. Clevinger left and was replaced by Zach McAllister, who retired Holt on a groundout for the first out before Nunez came through again with a single to score Vazquez with the fifth run of the night. A double play ball back to the mound from Hanley Ramirez ended the threat, but Boston had a comfortable 5-0 lead.
The Indians would get singles in the fifth and sixth, but could not produce. After retiring the Indians in order in the seventh, Fister’s offense got back to work to support him again. With Shawn Armstrong on in relief of McAllister, Nunez doubled to lead off the inning. After a fly out by Ramirez, Nunez picked off third uncontested before a strikeout seven pitches later by Jackie Bradley Jr. for the second out. The hot-hitting rookie Devers did not miss out on an opportunity to impress again, supplying an RBI-single to right to make it 6-0. Armstrong would work out of the jam, but only after loading the bases on a single by Xander Bogaerts and a walk to Moreland.
Quickly running out of time, the Indians mounted their biggest threat of the night in the eighth, but would once again come up wanting. Austin Jackson singled to left to start the inning against Fister, but was forced at second on a grounder by Gomes. Erik Gonzalez lined to right for the second out, but Bradley Zimmer homered to make it a 6-2 game. Brandon Workman came on from the bullpen and gave up back-to-back singles to Francisco Lindor and Brantley, but the cleanup hitter Ramirez could not deliver as he flied to left to end the rally.
Workman retired the side in order in the ninth to end the 6-2 contest.
The Indians fell to 57-47 in defeat, but they remain atop the AL Central by a pair of games thanks to a walk-off loss by the Kansas City Royals in Baltimore against the Orioles. Cleveland finished the month of July with a 15-11 record. The win for the Red Sox bumped their record to 58-49, despite a sub-.500 month.
The win for Fister (1-5) was his first in nearly a year, dating back to a victory with the Houston Astros in August of last season. He improved to 6-4 in his career against the Indians in 17 starts.
Clevinger (5-4) took the loss as his offense could not get him off of the hook for the rough outing as it had in his previous start against Toronto. He was charged with five runs on seven hits in three-plus innings, walking four and striking out two. McAllister allowed an inherited run to score, but otherwise through three scoreless innings of two-hit relief.
The Indians were hitless in three at bats with runners in scoring position and stranded five. Zimmer led the offense with a pair of hits and two RBI on the night, both coming on his eighth homer of the season. Devers pushed his batting average to .417 through his first six games with a four-hit game on Monday for Boston. Nunez had three hits, including a pair of doubles and two RBI, while Betts drove in three runs from the leadoff spot.
The pitching matchup of the series is set to take place at 7:10 PM ET on Tuesday night as Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco (10-4, 3.58 ERA) will duel with the AL’s top Cy Young candidate in Chris Sale (13-4, 2.37) in the middle game of the three-game set. Carrasco has been the Indians’ road warrior, posting a 7-2 record away from home in eleven starts. The left-hander Sale is tops in baseball in strikeouts and enters with an active 22 1/3 scoreless inning streak.
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