CLEVELAND – Boom! Bang! Pow! Nine pitches, three homers, one devastating inning.
Back in October’s spotlight, the Cleveland Indians rocked Rick Porcello for three long balls in the third inning in their A.L. Division Series opener. Francisco Lindor’s homer capped the rampage off the 22-game winner, and the Indians held on to beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 Thursday night.
Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Robert Perez went deep in the third off Porcello, who lasted 4 1/3 innings in his shortest outing this year.
“We were up in the strike zone and they made us pay for it,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Before a sea of red-towel waving, screaming fans, the Indians got a jump in the best-of-5 series against David Ortiz and the A.L. East champions.
Andrew Miller, acquired by Cleveland in a July trade for an October night like this, pitched two scoreless innings for the win. Summoned by manager Terry Francona earlier than usual, the lefty struck out Ortiz with two on to end the fifth and threw a season-high 40 pitches.
Bryan Shaw gave up a leadoff homer to Boston’s Brock Holt in the eighth that made it 5-4 before Cody Allen struck out Xander Bogaerts with the potential tying run at third to end the inning. Boston put a runner on with two outs in the ninth, but Allen fanned Dustin Pedroia on a full-count checked-swing, his 40th pitch, for the save. Pedroia was livid, and Farrell went onto the field to question plate umpire Brian Knight.
Pedroia fired his helmet in disgust on his way into the dugout.
“In real time, it’s a borderline call,” Farrell said. “Looking at it later, he swung.”
Ortiz went 1 for 4 with a double in the first game of his final postseason.
Rookie Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also homered for the Red Sox, who will start David Price in Game 2 in the shadows Friday afternoon against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber.
Cleveland unloaded on Porcello in the third, connecting for the three homers that shook Progressive Field.
Perez started the salvo with just his second homer in 82 at-bats at home this season. One out later, Kipnis drove a pitch over the wall in right-center, giving Cleveland a 3-2 lead and sending the raucous crowd of 37,763 into delirium. Kipnis had just finished getting a celebratory ride through the dugout when Lindor’s shot to right barely cleared a leaping attempt by Mookie Betts.
“By the third one, our dugout was losing it,” Kipnis said.
Porcello was clearly staggered by the barrage, and as Cleveland fans jumped for joy, Boston’s infielders gathered around their ace, who went 11-2 after the All-Star break.
Leon’s homer pulled the Red Sox to 4-3 in the fifth. Francona, who won two World Series with the Red Sox before coming to Cleveland, pulled starter Trevor Bauer for Miller, who hadn’t come in earlier than the sixth all season.
Miller gave up a double and walk before getting Ortiz to swing at a low third strike.
Francona extended both Miller and Allen knowing the importance of winning the opener.
“We wanted to win the game tonight and we did,” he said. “Tomorrow might be a little bit different design.”
Cleveland tacked on another run in the fifth, helped by Perez’s alert baserunning. The slow-footed catcher tagged and took second on a fly to left and scored on Kipnis’ single to make it 5-3.
Benintendi didn’t show any nerves in his first postseason at-bat, jumping on Bauer for a leadoff homer in the third for a 2-1 lead.
The enigmatic Bauer, who began the season in the bullpen, was in trouble in the first inning but emerged from a two-on, none-out situation only down 1-0.
With two runners at the corners, the right-hander struck out Betts and retired Ortiz on a foul pop. Hanley Ramirez followed with a single, scoring Pedroia. Holt tried to score from first, but was thrown out at the plate on a relay from shortstop Lindor to Perez, whose sweeping tag caught Boston’s third baseman on the knee.
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