Final, Red Sox 14-1: What a win for the Red Sox. It's hard to give Boston too much credit after a game like this, considering how the season has gone, but the Sox really kept at it today and played at a high level in all parts of the game for all nine innings.
Jon Lester looked downright great all day, striking out 12 and holding the Indians to no runs and one hit after the sacrifice fly scored a run in the first. He showed fire and precision that he hasn't had all season.
The lineup was solid, too, with none better than Adrian Gonzalez, who plated four runs on two hits, including a homer. Carl Crawford had three hits and three RBIs, and Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury both drilled two hits. Mike Aviles added three hits and was one of the few Red Sox without an RBI in the blowout.
Newcomer Danny Valencia also got his feet wet in a great win for the Sox. He'll be called upon more now that Will Middlebrooks is out, and today's win should get him — and the rest of the Red Sox — moving in the right direction as Boston prepares for six days against two tough American League opponents this week.
The Sox (57-59) are off until Tuesday, when they'll face the Orioles in Baltimore. Come back to NESN at 6 p.m. to get caught up on all the news for that game, including whether David Ortiz is ready to jump back into a lineup that has become as high-powered as it has been billed to be.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 14-1: Yes, it would have been amazing to see Clayton Mortensen hit a home run.
Nevertheless, the Red Sox head into the ninth with a nice cushion and the chance to head into an off day and a big week with some momentum.
End 8th, Red Sox 14-1: Bobby Valentine is going all National League on us. Or, he's just having fun with the lineup in this blowout.
Clayton Mortensen is in to pitch, and he's been slotted in the leadoff spot of the batting order. Pedro Ciriaco has been shifted to center field, with Nick Punto going to second and Jarrod Saltalamacchia coming out of the DH spot and playing first.
Ryan Lavarnway has also come in to catch, fresh off giving some advice to local Little Leaguers. Sounds like Lavarnway is happy to be in the bigs.
Mortensen didn't have much trouble with the Cleveland batters, getting Adsrubal Cabrera and Casey Kotchman to fly out. He walked Carlos Santana but got Shelley Duncan to fly out, too.
Mortensen is due up second in the top of the ninth, if Valentine wants to continue the fun.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 14-1: Frank Herrmann is easily Cleveland's MVP today, if you can have an MVP in a loss like this. He allowed just one earned run in 2 1/3 innings after his pitching counterparts gave up 13 over 4 2/3.
The Red Sox didn't collect any more runs against the new Cleveland pitcher, Cody Allen, but Mike Aviles did add a single.
End 7th, Red Sox 14-1: Junichi Tazawa had some hiccups that inning, but he emerged without allowing any runs to score.
Lou Marson hit a single, and Ezequiel Carrera had a long double, but the Sox kept the players on the bases.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 14-1: No way Pedro Ciriaco wasn't getting to first on that sharp grounder to third. He landed that zinger just far enough away from the third baseman that he could use his speed to get him the rest of the way.
Nick Punto and Cody Ross couldn't join the show, though, and the Red Sox failed to score in that inning (the horror!).
Looks like Junichi Tazawa is coming in. He's been great for the Red Sox this year, and he should be able to hold things tight and get Jon Lester a big win.
End 6th, Red Sox 14-1: Nick Punto and Pedro Ciriaco are also getting some playing time today, spelling Adrian Gonzalez (2-for-3, 4 RBI) and Dustin Pedroia (2-for-3, RBI).
Jon Lester, meanwhile, is pitching like this is the most important game of his life. He hasn't allowed a hit since the third or a walk since the second, and his line for the day (6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 12 K) is downright filthy.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 14-1: The Red Sox have brought Scott Podsednik into the game for Carl Crawford, and the Indians have called in one-time Red Sox player Casey Kotchman to play first for their side.
Crawford can use all the rest he can get, and seeing as he's had a 3-for-4 game with 3 RBIs and two runs scored, he's certainly put in a day of work.
Mike Aviles drilled a double to keep the hits coming in the top of the sixth, but Danny Valencia, Kelly Shoppach and Jacoby Ellsbury all went down in order to keep the margin the same.
End 5th, Red Sox 14-1: Huh. Jon Lester is in a groove.
He struck out Ezequiel Carrera, Jason Donald and Asdrubal Cabrera, and that's it for the inning.
He's up to 88 pitches but is really cooking now, with his 10 Ks marking a season-high.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 14-1: Frank Herrmann (2-2, 4.28 ERA) came in to stop the bleeding for the Indians. Instead, Adrian Gonzalez and company continued to enjoy their pleasant afternoon.
Dustin Pedroia drew a walk, and Gonzalez pummeled another ball to right-center, which has been a happy zone for the Red Sox this inning. He scored Crawford and Pedroia. That gives Gonzalez four RBIs today.
Cody Ross drew a walk, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia gave the Indians a hand and flew out to end the onslaught — for now?
2:54 p.m.: Josh Tomlin is out. The Red Sox are piling on.
Danny Valencia just missed a chance at a grand slam. OK, it wasn't that close, but when it left the bat — and the way the inning was going — Red Sox fans had to think the magical could happen in the great Midwest. Instead, Valencia plated one run, and the Red Sox gathered six runs overall to further distance themselves from the Indians.
Dustin Pedroia started it with an infield single, and Adrian Gonzalez walked. Cody Ross, who has to be happy Corey Kluber is out of the game after striking out twice, had an RBI single to send Pedroia home. Then Jarrod Saltalamacchia turned around his luck and beat out an infield single, scoring Gonzalez.
Josh Tomlin, who could have used today's game to prove that he should have been starting rather than Kluber (who essentially took his spot in the rotation), then walked Mike Aviles. Valencia's long fly scored Ross, and after Shoppach went down on a foul tip, Jacoby Ellsbury finally got on the board with a nice double to center that scored two runs.
Crawford kept the fun going with a double that scored Ellsbury.
The Red Sox have spread the damage. Eight players have RBIs (just Aviles hasn't driven anyone in) and everyone but Valencia has a hit.
End 4th, Red Sox 6-1: This Lester guy is pretty good!
Lester's curveball is rocking, and he has four strikeouts in a row thanks to it. Before we bemoan his season too much, let's remember that good strikeout totals have been a bellwether for the rest of his game. This could actually be a turnaround.
Lester hasn't had more than nine strikeouts this season at any point, but he's up to seven today. He also just recorded his first 1-2-3 inning.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 6-1: What do you think? Is Mike Aviles jealous of all this attention that speedsters Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are getting?
Aviles certainly looked like the player who held down the leadoff role for much of the season in that inning. He had a great steal of second base then churned all the way from second to home on a Kelly Shoppach single to center.
It started with a scary moment, though.
Jerry Remy said what many Red Sox fans were surely thinking when Mike Aviles got drilled in the wrist: "Not another one."
Aviles looked to be OK, though, and the moment of pain and frustration got him on first base for the second time in the afternoon. That was all he needed to piece together some running and score.
2:24 p.m.: Corey Kluber was a good soldier throughout, but he just didn't have it against the Red Sox today. He's fought out of a couple of holes already, but Cleveland will turn to another pitcher now.
Josh Tomlin is in for Cleveland. Interesting note: This is the guy who Kluber essentially bounced when he was called up. Tomlin is 5-8 with a 5.82 ERA this year, losing his spot in the starting rotation after some woeful recent outings.
End 3rd, Red Sox 5-1: Jon Lester almost steamrolled through that inning without a scratch, but Carlos Santana got just enough to loop a single to center.
Lester rang up Shin-Soo Choo a second time and also got Asdrubal Cabrera and Shelley Duncan on big Ks.
Lester has given up three hits today and struck out six — a favorable ratio, no?
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 5-1: In honor of shark week, I think we heard some shark music coming our way in that inning. The explosive Red Sox offense went down on a mere six pitches (just like last night! Doom!).
Jarrod Saltalamacchia did not strike out that time, but Cody Ross did (the second time today). Saltalamacchia and Adrian Gonzalez both grounded out to give Kluber his quickest inning of the day.
The DH spot, which at first looked at least OK when David Ortiz went out with injury since the Red Sox had a wealth of players in the outfield, now looks precarious. The Red Sox have not gotten any home runs from their designated hitters since Ortiz left — 95 at-bats total. Ortiz had 23 before being sidelined indefinitely.
Feeling a tug on your leg just yet? The Red Sox may survive today, but the water feels pretty deep.
End 2nd, Red Sox 5-1: The Red Sox will keep Mr. Valencia, thank you.
Danny Valencia made a great dive at third to catch Jack Hannahan's liner and get Jon Lester another out.
Boston fans may feel like the Red Sox didn't do much to upgrade at the trade deadline, but Valencia — acquired from the Twins — is a player who has done some things in the minor leagues and looks like he may just need a new place to shine. He could be a great weapon for Boston in the future, and he's already shown himself to be good insurance now that Will Middlebrooks is out.
Lester, meanwhile, is puttering right along. He walked Ezequiel Carrera (you read that right), his second walk of the day, but wrapped up the inning with a strikeout of Jason McDonald.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 5-1: Maybe we're just going to see lots of hits today.
Carl Crawford did good again, drilling another double. This one scored Mike Aviles and Jacoby Ellsbury with two outs. That should be plenty of a cushion for Jon Lester, and the Boston bats just look good out there.
Aviles was the fourth Red Sox player with a hit, with his well-placed shot onto the lawn getting him on base first. Ellsbury also found room to drop a floater, slicing one into left field.
Kluber got new third baseman Danny Valencia and Kelly Shoppach on flies, and Dustin Pedroia hit a sharp grounder to end the inning.
All of the Red Sox' hits today have been well-struck.
End 1st, Red Sox 3-1: Jon Lester lost his no-hitter within three pitches, but that inning could have been worse. He dug deep to strike out Shin-Soo Choo (but isn't that what you get for wearing a batting helmet with two ear coverings?).
Carlos Santana's long fly scored Jason Donald, but Lester got (briefly) former teammate Brent Lillibridge to end the frame.
Not a great inning for Lester, but it was a solid start for 2012 Lester.
Mid 1st, Red Sox 3-0: The Red Sox have wilted against lesser pitchers, but they're all business today. Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia smacked a pair of doubles, and Adrian Gonzalez continued his home run parade to get Boston on the board early.
Gonzalez has had seven home runs since the All-Star break after hitting just six in the entire first chunk of the season. That's what you're supposed to do in the cleanup spot, where Gonzalez has looked very comfortable in keeping up the pressure with David Ortiz out.
The Red Sox were really working that first-base side in the first inning, whether batting from the left or right. We'll have to keep an eye on Corey Kluber's pitching to see whether he's doing something funky out there. Right now, it just looks like he stinks.
Crawford got a much-needed double to get things going for Boston. Crawford was rounding into shape throughout the Minnesota and Texas series, but he was without a hit against the Indians until that screamer down the first-base line. Crawford was originally brought to Boston to give the Sox a combo of two leadoff men at the top of the order with Jacoby Ellsbury, and he needs to get on base to make his part of the threat happen.
Something to watch today will be how patient the Red Sox can be. They didn't wait on very many pitches last night, and as a result, they didn't get a lot of extra guys on base. That not only killed their scoring chances but also kept the Indians' pitching staff far too rested. They seem to be making Kluber pitch to them today, and the long inning has Kluber's pitch count up to 28 already.
1:05 p.m.: And here comes the first pitch. That is a very empty-looking stadium in Cleveland.
1 p.m.: Say what you will about the Red Sox and chemistry problems this season, but the Red Sox are comparatively drama-free when it comes to guys like Chad Johnson. His Saturday arrest just got more interesting. (And are the Pats in for more? They're working out Plaxico Burress today.)
Good news on the injury front: Will Middlebrooks probably doesn't need surgery.
11:45 a.m.: We have a few nuggets about today's game that you can find in our leading off article. Basically, if the 2011 version of Lester against the Indians shows up today, the Red Sox are in excellent shape (but hasn't that been the case all year?). Also, check out the crazy stat about how Boston's injury problems this year stack up in baseball history.
10:30 a.m.: And your Indians:
Jason Donald 2B
Asdrubal Cabrera DH
Shin-Soo Choo RF
Carlos Santana 1B
Shelley Duncan LF
Brent Lillibridge SS
Lou Marson C
Jack Hannahan 3B
Ezequiel Carrera CF
Corey Kluber P
10:15 a.m.: We've got your starting Red Sox. Danny Valencia will get the nod at third as Will Middlebrooks looks at a long recovery from a broken wrist.
Kelly Shoppach will catch Jon Lester, and Cody Ross starts in right field.
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Cody Ross RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia DH
Mike Aviles SS
Danny Valencia 3B
Kelly Shoppach C
Jon Lester P
8a.m. ET: The Red Sox and Indians are both living The Season That Could Have Been this year, but that doesn't mean they've spared each other over their four-game series this week. The two teams, which both came into this year thinking they could make noise in the American League, have slugged it out, with the Indians taking two games and the Red Sox one. While Boston (56-59) continues to fight for a wild card spot, the Indians (53-61) haven't gone down easy in the only games in which these two teams will face each other this year.
The series wraps up Sunday with an afternoon matinee that will set the tone for a challenging week ahead for the Red Sox. After an off day Monday, Boston travels to Baltimore for three games then New York for another three, with both series holding serious implications. The Yankees (67-46) and Orioles (61-53) hold the keys to the top of the American League East, and even if the Sox can't take the division, they'll need victories against the front-runners to help in their wild card cause.
Taking the mound to set the tone for the tough week is none other than Jon Lester (5-10, 5.36 ERA), whose season has mercifully had a bit of a turnaround lately. While Lester is far from the form he's had in previous seasons — and can certainly share much of the blame for where the Sox are this year — he's been able to piece together a couple of non-debacles recently. After his most hideous outing — an 11-run, four-inning punt of a start on July 22 — Lester has allowed 10 earned runs over his past three starts and thrown 20 2/3 innings in those games. While two of those starts led to losses, Lester's strikeout-to-walk ratio is less ghastly, and he at least looks less lost than usual.
Lester will do his work opposite Corey Kluber (0-0, 6.10 ERA), a right-hander who has seen little time in the big leagues. Kluber came up from the Indians' Triple-A Columbus team on Aug. 1 as starters Josh Tomlin (since demoted) and Derek Lowe (since released and picked up by the Yankees) struggled, and he's had mixed results in his first two starts. After giving up six earned runs over 4 1/3 innings to Kansas City, he went six innings and gave up just one earned run against Minnesota on Tuesday. He'll be trying to find his footing against the Red Sox on Sunday in just his sixth big league outing (including three appearances last fall).
Boston will take its first hacks at finishing off the Indians at 1:05, but we'll have much more for you before that. Turn to NESN at noon for Red Sox First Pitch and GameDay Live, and check back here for updates and analysis before and throughout the game.