Carlos Santana homered for the third straight game on Tuesday night, but it wasn’t the game-winning grand slam that he hit Sunday against the Twins or the walk-off homer of Monday night against the Red Sox at Progressive Field.
Santana’s homer in the fourth inning against Chris Sale got the slow-starting Indians offense going, but it wasn’t enough to prevent them from losing to Boston, 7-6, in 10 innings.
Cleveland fell to 72-48 with the loss, and a half-game behind the Minnesota Twins (72-47) in the AL Central Division standings. Both teams lead Tampa Bay and Oakland in the Wild Card Game standings by two games.
The Indians, trailing 6-1 at one time, came back to tie it in the ninth on Francisco Lindor’s double that scored Greg Allen from second. Allen hit a leadoff single off Brandon Workman (9-1) and stole second. Lindor doubled to left center to make it 6-6, but then made a rare mistake.
He tried to steal third with one out and Oscar Mercado at the plate. Lindor was originally called safe by third base umpire Lance Barksdale, but the Red Sox challenged the call. The call was overturned after a 40-second review. Mercado flew out to end the inning.
Boston won it in the 10th on a homer by Jackie Bradley off Nick Wittgren. The homer came after Wittgren (4-1) struck out Sandy Leon in a 10-pitch at-bat.
“It’s bang-bang, but if he makes it (to third) we win,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Lindor’s steal attempt in the ninth. “So I don’t want to take our aggressiveness away, because sometimes you’re going to be out. You don’t know if Oscar hits a flyball if he’s safe ... the whole thing is different. I didn’t really look at it like that.”
Santana opened the 10th with a bloop single, but Andrew Cashner slammed the door on the Tribe. Mike Freeman’s bunt attempt turned into a 3-6 force of Santana at second. Then Cashner struck out Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez. It was Cashner’s first career save.
The Red Sox haven’t looked like the team that won 108 games and the World Series last year for much of this season. But no one ever said anything was wrong with their elite offense.
That’s what sidetracked Mike Clevinger and the Indians as their post All-Star Game record fell to 22-10.
The Red Sox, who pelted Clevinger for 11 hits in just 4 1/3 innings, started quickly. Mookie Betts tripled and Rafael Devers, who had six of Boston’s 16 hits on a perfect 6-for-6 night, doubled him home to start the game. Clevinger retired the next three batters, but Boston kept after him.
Betts singled home Marco Hernandez in the second for a 2-0 lead. The inning ended when Allen threw out Sandy Leon from left field as he tried to go from first to third on Betts’ single.
Boston made it 4-1 in the fifth. Devers doubled and went to third on a one-out single by J.D. Martinez. Clevinger struck out Andrew Benintendi, but Mitch Moreland and Marco Hernandez followed with consecutive singles to deliver Devers and Martinez. Clevinger’s night was over.
“Sometimes you can get away with it against another lineup, but when you’r not commanding, they have a team that can make you pay,” Francona said of Clevinger’s night.
Sale, meanwhile, was striking out a lot of Indians. And he was doing it like he was parked in a tow-away zone. He struck out the side in order in the first. He struck out another in the second. When he struck out Mercado in the third it gave him 2,000 strikeouts for his career. He reached that milestone in 1,626 innings, making him the fastest pitcher in big-league history to 2,000 strikeouts (Elias).
The Indians slowly worked their way back into the game.
Santana got the offense started with a leadoff homer against Sale in the fourth to make it 2-1. It was Santana’s 27th homer and the first one in the last three games that didn’t make the Indians a winner.
The Red Sox, however, kept scoring.
They made it 6-1 with two runs in the sixth off lefty Josh Smith, who relieved Clevinger in the fifth. Smith, a former Boston farmhand, found trouble in the sixth. He hit Bradley with a pitch, walked Betts and gave up a two-run double to Devers to start the inning.
Smith settled down after that and held the Red Sox scoreless through the seventh. It gave the Tribe’s offense a chance.
Franmil Reyes cut Boston’s lead in half at 6-3 with a two-run homer in the sixth off Sale. It was Reyes’ second homer since the Indians acquired him from San Diego on July 31, and his second in as many days against the Red Sox. Sale retired the first two batters in the inning, but Santana, with 12 career RBI against Sale, walked to get Reyes to the plate.
The Tribe continued to push in the seventh. Lindor’s two-out double made it 6-5. Sale walked Perez to start the inning. When Devers couldn’t handle Allen’s grounder to third, Perez went to third and Allen to second. Lindor followed with his double to left to end Sale’s night.
Mercado followed with an infield hit to bring Santana to the plate. But he could not play the hero for the third straight game as he struck out against reliever Matt Barnes.
Sale allowed five runs, three earned, in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out 12 and walked two.
Clevinger allowed four runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.
The Indians will send Shane Bieber (12-4, 3.28) to the mound Wednesday for the season finale against the Red Sox. The Red Sox were expected to start Nathan Evoldi (0-0, 6.25), but Evoldi worked an inning in relief Tuesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. with SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM carrying the game.
Bieber, coming off a win against the Twins, is 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his last eight starts. He’s 2-1 with a 8.44 ERA against Boston. He won a five-and-fly start against the Red Sox on May 29.