Indians edge Red Sox in ALDS Game 1: 10 things to know

The Indians on Thursday night in Cleveland edged the Red Sox 5-4 in Game 1 of the American League Division Series (box score). The two teams combined to hit six home runs, all solo shots. One of the stories for Cleveland was Andrew Miller, who worked two shutout innings against the heart of the Boston order in relief of Trevor Bauer. Jason Kipnis had a home run, three hits, and two RBI.

Game 2 is scheduled for Friday back in Cleveland. Here are 10 things to know about Game 1.

The Indians won the pitching mismatch

Going to start with something obvious: This was a huge win for the Indians. Crazy, I know. This win was big because of the pitching matchup. They started Trevor Bauer, their nominal No. 4 starter, in Game 1 because injuries struck the rest of the rotation. The Red Sox started Cy Young candidate (favorite?) Rick Porcello. It was a pitching mismatch on paper, but the Indians came out ahead. That's huge. I don't want to say the Indians stole this game, but the odds were not in their favor. Huge W to start the series.

Francona is the anti-Showalter

Earlier this week the Orioles were bounced from the postseason in the AL Wild Card Game, partly because closer Zach Britton never pitched in the game. Manager Buck Showalter saved him for the save situation that never came. Using Britton wouldn't have guaranteed the O's a win, but it sure would have improved their chances.

In Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday, Indians manager Terry Francona did the opposite for Showalter. He couldn't wait to use his best reliever. So, with his team nursing a one-run lead with two outs in the fifth, Francona brought in Andrew Miller to face the middle of the Red Sox lineup. Miller recorded the next six outs while the Tribe stretched their lead to two runs. He threw 40 pitches and struck out David Ortiz.

In an age when so many managers are quick to assign their relievers innings -- closer pitches the ninth, setup man pitches the eighth, etc. -- Francona bucked the trend and use his best pitcher against the other team's best hitters. Bryan Shaw started the eighth inning with a two-run lead, and the Indians had that lead because Miller cut through the heart of the order earlier in the game. Love the bullpen management. Love it.

The Indians homered three times in an inning

Cleveland took their first lead of the game in the third inning, and they did it thanks to three home runs. Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor all took Porcello deep. Kipnis and Lindor hit back-to-back home runs. Here's the video.

The Kipnis and Lindor homers are only the second set of back-to-back postseason homers in Indians history.


That 1998 game was also the last time the Indians hit three home runs in one inning of a postseason game. Weirdly enough, the hardest hit ball of that inning was not one of the home runs. It was a Mike Napoli foul ball, by a lot:

Napoli almost made it back-to-back-to-back home runs, but his loud fly ball hooked foul. The three-homer inning gave the Indians control of the game. From there, Francona was simply counting down the outs until he could turn the game over the Miller.

Cleveland's baserunning created a run

In terms of overall baserunning -- that means going first-to-third, advancing on wild pitches, etc., not just stolen bases -- the Indians were one of the best teams in baseball this season. They led MLB in bases taken and percentage of extra bases taken this season, so they're aggressive at taking the extra 90 feet. That aggressiveness created the team's fifth run.

Perez, the No. 9 hitter, singled to left to start the inning. The next batter, Carlos Santana, lifted a routine fly ball to left, which Andrew Benintendi caught a little too casually. Perez tagged up and advanced to second, thanks in part to Benintendi's rushed throw, which was off-line. Kipnis drove in Perez with a single as the next batter for what proved to be the game-winning run. A slow-footed catcher tagging up at first on a lazy fly to left is unheard of, at least for teams other than these Indians.

Also, wouldn't it be something if Perez out-hits Jonathan Lucroy this postseason? Lucroy was traded to the Indians before invoking his no-trade clause, remember. He went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in Game 1 of the ALDS for the Rangers earlier on Thursday. Perez went 2 for 3 with the homer and two runs scored in Game 1 for the Indians later Thursday night. He also made several great defensive plays.

Benintendi homered in his first at-bat

As if the Red Sox don't have enough young talent, they called up top outfield prospect Andrew Benintendi at midseason, and he hit .295/.359/.476 in 34 big league games. Then, in his first postseason at-bat, he went deep.

The BoSox have been around an awfully long time and they've had some great players in their history, yet none of them ever hit a postseason homer at a younger age than Benintendi.

As for the home run in his first postseason at-bat thing, you don't have to go back too far for the last time that happened. Thomas Pham of the Cardinals and Michael Conforto of the Mets did it just last year.

Boston had a big chance in the first inning

Nine pitches into the game, the Red Sox had Bauer on the ropes. Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt started the game with back-to-back two-strike singles, giving the BoSox runners on first and third with no outs. Cleveland was in trouble right away.

Bauer rebounded to get Mookie Betts (strikeout) and Ortiz (pop-up), though Hanley Ramirez got a run home with a double. It would have been two runs if not for this perfect set of relays by Tyler Naquin and Lindor, and this tag by Perez:

Flawless execution to cut the runner down at the plate. Given the outcome of the game, that play turned out to be pretty huge. Escaping that first and third jam with just one run allowed meant the Indians weren't stuck trying to rally from a multi-run deficit right from the get-go.

Boston's kids had a rough night

The Red Sox sent three of their prized youngsters to the All-Star Game this year: Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. They did not have a good Game 1.

Ouch. The Red Sox have such a good offense that they can still score four runs when their No. 3, 6, and 7 hitters do that, but yeah, those three didn't do them any favors Thursday night.

Yes, Pedroia swung

The game ended on a check swing strike three by Pedroia, which he and manager John Farrell argued with first base ump Phil Cuzzi. The check swing:


Yeah, that's clearly a swing. Game over.

The Klubot is looming

Now the Indians have their ace, Corey Kluber, set to start Game 2 on Friday. Both Miller and closer Cody Allen threw 40 pitches in Game 1, so while I'm sure they'll be available in Game 2 ...

... they might only be available for one inning each. Kluber is a Cy Young candidate (favorite?) like Porcello, and Cleveland will need him to take the ball deep into the game.

During the late 1990s Yankees dynasty, manager Joe Torre used to say Game 2 was the most important game of the series. You either had a chance to take a 2-0 series lead or avoid falling behind 0-2. That's why Torre always started Andy Pettitte in Game 2. He trusted him the most. The Indians will have their ace on the mound in that all-important Game 2 with a chance to put their foot on the throat of the Red Sox.

The Indians treat their development staff

It's been almost a decade since the Indians last played in a postseason series. You have to go all the way back to the 2007 ALCS against, coincidentally enough, the Red Sox. (The Indians did play in the 2013 Wild Card Game, though that's not a series.)

To mark the occasion, the Tribe brought all of their player development stuff to Progressive Field for Game 1, all expenses paid.

That doesn't sound like much, but few teams will go all out like that. Especially not this early in the postseason. They might bring their support staff in for a World Series game, but the LDS? Doesn't happen often.

Well done, Indians. It takes a lot of people to get a team to October, and they all deserve thank yous.

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