Red Sox solve Indians ace Corey Kluber to back Drew Pomeranz win
CLEVELAND — The Red Sox will have to figure out a way to score more runs against Corey Kluber.
But scoring more runs is not the mantra of the 2017 season. Preventing them is.
Last night, the Cleveland Indians ace was exceptional, striking out 12 batters (including his 200th of the season) in 72/3 innings as he lowered his ERA to 2.65. Drew Pomeranz and the Red Sox bullpen were even better.
Riding 51/3 scoreless from Pomeranz, the Red Sox took their second straight win from the AL Central-leading Indians, holding to them to a single run in each victory.
“Against a team that, let’s face it, they can swing the bat well,” manager John Farrell said. “And on a night when there’s absolutely no margin for error going against Kluber, that was a well-pitched game, on both sides.”
The Sox took a 1-0 lead into the eighth, when they tacked on another against Kluber via a two-out walk by Brock Holt, an Eduardo Nunez hit by pitch and a two-out RBI single by Mookie Betts. They added four more in the ninth.
It was Kluber’s first loss since the Fourth of July.
He hadn’t faced the AL East-leading Red Sox since last October, when he threw seven scoreless and held them to just three hits in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
“This was almost like a playoff game,” said Nunez, who homered in the ninth. “A big series here, and a big series coming up, too. Kluber’s one of the best pitchers in the game. We just tried to fight him and put up good at-bats.”
The Sox barely touched him last night until Mitch Moreland got a high-and-inside changeup at 89 mph and deftly touched it into the right field stands for a solo shot in the fifth inning.
In the eighth, when Betts came through yet again with runners in scoring position, it marked his 40th hit of the season in just 104 at-bats in such situations.
Kluber was done after that, ending his night on 114 pitches, 75 for strikes.
Pomeranz threw 103 pitches, 60 for strikes, before being lifted in the sixth.
Pomeranz’ innings were strong innings, with the Indians struggling to make any contact against his looping curve and well-spotted fastballs. They struck out nine times, including three times in the second inning, and collected just two hits.
“I had a good curveball tonight,” he said. “I was throwing it where I wanted to, and they kept missing it.”
It was an impressive start and an important one for the lefty, who was forced by back spasms to leave his previous start early. He was hoping he would pitch without pain in this one. Occasionally he stepped off the mound to stretch his back, but he threw effectively enough to lower his ERA to 3.18.
“He gave us more than I anticipated going in given the fact that he came off in the fourth inning just five days ago,” Farrell said. “Sixty pitches thrown his last time out. Not more in terms of the performance, but in terms of the number of pitches. He certainly still didn’t want to come out of that ballgame, but he was sharp.”
In the bottom of the eighth inning with the Red Sox ahead, 2-1, Edwin Encarnacion came to the plate with two outs. He was 2-for-2 lifetime against set-up man Addison Reed but just 2-for-9 with three strikeouts against closer Craig Kimbrel. Still, Farrell stuck with Reed, and Encarnacion jacked one more than 450 feet for a solo shot to left.
With Kimbrel warming in the bullpen, the Sox had a big ninth inning, two runs coming in on Nunez’ 10th homer of the season and sixth in 22 games since being traded to the Red Sox.
The homer eliminated the save opportunity, but Kimbrel still came in and struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.