For the longest time today it looked as if extra innings might be in the cards, and it might have been, had the Indians not had a former National League manager who knows the benefits of being able to lay down a simple, fundamental bunt.
Without the benefit of a hit in the inning, Cleveland scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the eighth, Fausto Carmona was brilliant in a perfect comeback from his opening game, Rafael Perez was clutch when needed in a scoreless situation, and Chris Perez made things nervous but benefited from a base-running blunder in the Red Sox’ ninth. It all translated into a 1-0 Indians’ win that moved the Tribe to 4-2 on the season and into a tie for first in the AL Central with Kansas City, and perhaps with Chicago as well, depending upon what the White Sox do this afternoon.
For seven tense innings, Carmona and Jon Lester, the Boston starter, both put up goose-egg after goose-egg, and both left with no decision, setting up the thrilling final two innings. Carmona’s performance dropped his ERA twenty-one points, all the way down to 9.00, and every one of those scoreless innings was needed.
In the Boston eighth, Chad Durbin came on and — after getting one out on a liner to center — gave up a single to Marco Scutaro and a walk to Jacoby Ellsbury, and suddenly the Sox had two on and a chance to finally break through for their first win of the season.
Enter Rafael Perez.
The next two Boston hitters, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia, never got the ball out of the infield, being retired on grounders to keep the game at 0-0, and keeping Rafael Perez’s ERA at 0.00.
But there was still the matter of winning a ball game, and in the bottom of the eighth the Indians struck — if, indeed, a rally with no hits could be considered “striking”…perhaps it is more accurate to say the Indians “nibbled away” for a run.
Daniel Bard relieved Lester to begin the eighth, after a fine performance from the Sox starter, who went seven frames, K’ing nine and allowing only three hits.
Bard walked Adam Everett, and with Orlando Cabrera at the plate, Everett stole second. O. Cabrera then sacrifice-bunted Everett to third, bringing Asdrubal Cabrera to the plate.
A. Cabrera then laid down a perfect suicide-squeeze bunt to plate Everett, completing a beautiful small-ball rally. After Shin-Soo Choo made the third out of the inning — dropping his batting average to .083 — we were headed to the ninth.
Chris Perez came on for the Indians, and immediately retired Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis on grounders, bringing David Ortiz to the plate. Ortiz, who is capable of hitting a homer each time he makes contact, walked, and was pinch-run for by Darnell McDonald. The next hitter, J.D. Drew, drove a pitch off of Chris Perez’s leg for an infield hit, which should have left two men on base — had McDonald not fallen down rounding second and been tagged out for the third and final out of the inning, after an alert Adam Everett, playing third, saw McDonald’s stumble and fired to second. On the replay it was hard to see if the tag beat McDonald — but the ump called it, and we will TAKE it.
Rafael Perez got the win for the second game in a row to move to 2-0 on the season, and Chris Perez got a thrilling second save. Daniel Bard took the loss for the Red Sox, who return to Boston for their home opener tomorrow against the New York Yankees with a record of 0-6.
The Indians head to Seattle and visit old friend Eric Wedge and his Mariners tomorrow night at 10:05 with Carlos Carrasco hoping to emulate Fausto Carmona’s bounce-back second start.