CLEVELAND -- The Indians got an “A” for effort Tuesday night, but unfortunately for them and the rowdy 26,662 fans at Progressive Field still took an “L” in the standings.
Cleveland fought back from a five-run deficit after being dominated for much of the night by left-hander Chris Sale, but wasn’t able to finish the deal, falling 7-6 to the Red Sox, who got a 10th-inning home run from Jackie Bradley Jr. off Nick Wittgren to seal the win.
“They played their (butts) off. I mean, my goodness,” manager Terry Francona said of his team, which lost for just the third time in 12 games to fall a half-game behind Minnesota in the Central Division standings. “That’s a hard game to win and we about did. We’re gonna have to regroup quickly, but that was a heck of a game. You’re not gonna win all of ‘em but it was a fun game to be a part of. I was proud of our guys.”
Sale, who has been wildly inconsistent this season, struck out 12 and retired the first eight hitters he faced, holding the Indians without a run until Carlos Santana extended his homer streak to three games with a solo shot to start the fourth inning.
He allowed another homer in the sixth to Franmil Reyes, who went deep for the second straight night, but still owned a 6-3 lead before the Indians rallied in the seventh to pull within a run on Francisco Lindor’s two-out, two-run double.
Lindor was at the root of another rally in the ninth.
Greg Allen lined an 0-2 pitch into right field for a leadoff single and then stole second base before Tyler Naquin struck out.
Lindor followed with a drive into the gap in left-center to score Allen with the tying run and send the hometown crowd into a frenzy.
The excitement was quickly quelled, though, when Lindor tried to steal third and was thrown out. He was originally ruled safe, but Boston challenged and the call was overturned.
The following batter, Oscar Mercado, hit a fly ball that was likely deep enough for Lindor to score the winning run.
Francona said Lindor went on his own, but he had the green light.
“It’s bang-bang and if he makes it, we probably win,” Francona said. “And I don’t want to take our aggressiveness away because every once in a while you are going to be out.”
Lindor took the blame.
“I messed up. It’s a rookie mistake,” he said. “I got ahead of myself. Live and learn from it.”
The Indians were in the early hole thanks to Sale and a subpar effort from right-hander Mike Clevinger, who failed to make it out of the fifth inning after allowing four runs on 11 hits and two walks.
“I would say two-strike execution and nine hits with two strikes (was the problem). Can’t let that happen,” Clevinger said. “It’s just execution. It obviously wasn’t my day, but you’ve got to find a way. Today wasn’t one of those days I was finding a way with two strikes.”
Clevinger allowed a run two batters into the game on the first of four doubles from third baseman Rafael Devers, who went 6-for-6 and drove in three runs. Devers is the first player in major league history to record six hits and four doubles in the same game.
Clevinger allowed another run in the second inning before surrendering consecutive two-out singles to Mitch Moreland and Marco Hernandez and departing with Boston in front 4-1 in the fifth.
“It wasn’t his best command and when you face a lineup like this they make you work so hard that his pitch count was so high, quickly,” Francona said of Clevinger. “Part of it’s because it’s their lineup. Sometimes you can get away with it against another lineup, but when you’re not commanding, they can really make you pay.”
With his strikeout of Mercado in the third inning, Sale became the fastest pitcher in MLB history to reach 2,000 career strikeouts (1,626 innings), passing former Boston ace Pedro Martinez (1,711 1/3 innings).
The Indians were outhit 16-9 but still managed to force extra innings and nearly steal a win.
“We’re here to compete,” Lindor said. “We’re having fun. We’re enjoying the game and we have a good team. It seems like in the last couple innings, we got better. That’s exactly what we want as a team the last two months.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.