For the first time in nine years, the Cleveland Indians are on their way to the American League Championship Series.
The Indians earned the berth into the ALCS by finishing off the three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the best-of-five matchup with a 4-3 win in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park Monday night.
With the win over Boston, the Indians will face off against the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, starting with Game 1 at Progressive Field on Friday night.
Indians starter Josh Tomlin allowed just two earned runs and four hits with one walk and four strikeouts over five-plus innings of work against Boston. Both he and the bullpen got the necessary help from the offense to finish off the sweep.
The Indians collected seven hits and two walks, and turned those base runners into four runs, thanks to a two-run homer from left fielder Coco Crisp in the top of the sixth inning and center fielder Tyler Naquin’s two-run single in the top of the fourth.
The Indians knocked on the door in each of their first three at-bats, but they finally broke through in the top of the fourth inning against the Red Sox.
Naquin delivered a one-out, two-run single to right field that plated third baseman Jose Ramirez and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall, and that hit gave the Indians a 2-0 lead over the Red Sox.
Ramirez began the inning with a single to right field, and Chisenhall followed by fighting off two pitches before drawing a walk against Boston starter Clay Buckholz. Crisp moved each of the runners up a base when he dropped down a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher’s mound, which set up Naquin’s single.
Naquin advanced to second base on a groundout to Dustin Pedroia. The veteran infielder dove at the grounder off the bat of catcher Roberto Perez and snagged it in the webbing of his glove before popping up and firing to first base for the out. Designated hitter Carlos Santana struck out swinging to end the threat in the fourth.
The Red Sox cut the Indians’ lead in half, 2-1, with an RBI single from left fielder Andrew Benintendi in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts started the rally when he smacked a looping single to center field off of Tomlin. Then, Benintendi followed with a double off of “The Green Monster” in left field, and that brought around Bogaerts for Boston’s first run of the game.
Bogaerts was on the first-base side of second when Benintendi’s double ricocheted off the wall, and Crisp fielded the ball cleanly. However, Crisp’s relay throw to shortstop Francisco Lindor bounced in the grass, and although his throw to Perez was on target, it was a half-second late as Bogaerts slid head first and touched home plate ahead of the tag.
The Red Sox bullpen did not surrender a run in the first 23 innings of the American League Division Series, but the Indians got to their former farm-hand, Drew Pomeranz, with one out in the top of the sixth inning.
After Ramirez drew a lead-off walk on just five pitches, Chisenhall sacrificed himself to move the runner into scoring position. Then, despite being down in the count, 1-2, Crisp smacked a two-run home run over the wall in left-center field.
Crisp’s home run gave the Indians a 4-1 lead over the Red Sox.
Down by three runs heading into the sixth inning, Boston got one run back on a sacrifice fly off the bat of designated hitter David Ortiz to center against Indians left-handed reliever Andrew Miller.
With Pedroia on third base after a lead-off single that drove Tomlin from the game and a double from right fielder Mookie Betts off of the wall in left field, Ortiz hit a low pitch on a line to center field. Although reserve outfielder Rajai Davis tracked down the ball for the second out of the inning, Pedroia scooted down the third-base line for Boston’s second run of the game.
Miller shut the door on a bigger rally for the Red Sox in the sixth inning when he set down first baseman Hanley Ramirez on strikes.
The Red Sox continued to pressure the Indians’ bullpen and trimmed the deficit down to a run, 4-3, in the bottom of the eighth inning.
With Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts on second base after hitting into a fielder’s choice and designated hitter David Ortiz on via a four-pitch walk, first baseman Hanley Ramirez smacked a 2-0 pitch from Indians closer Cody Allen into left-center field and drove in Betts.