BOSTON -- Call it the “Memorial Day (Weekend) Miracle.”
Jacoby Ellsbury ripped a two-run double to cap a four-run bottom of the ninth that had a little of everything and lift the Red Sox to a remarkable 6-5 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday at Fenway Park.
Ellsbury ripped the first pitch by reliever Joe Smith, who was rushed on when closer Chris Perez left the game with an injury and a 2-1 count on Ellsbury. Perez already had allowed two runs and left the bases loaded.
The rally spoiled a solid effort for Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, who overpowered Boston through 6 2/3 solid innings. Kluber outpitched Felix Doubront, who was rather ordinary once again, allowing four runs and striking out eight in six frames.
Winners of three straight, the Red Sox host Philadelphia in the first of two at Fenway on Monday night.
Here’s some of what we saw before Terry Francona’s Indians decided to implode before another sellout crowd at Fenway:
First things first: There was plenty to take away from the opening half inning, when the Indians scored a pair of unearned runs off Doubront. To begin with, the fact that the first pitch was thrown at 1:38 p.m. and Michael Bourn had a single and a stolen base by 1:40 is the very definition of setting the table.
Then there was a dropped pop by Jacoby Ellsbury on a play that saw him run very far and nearly bump into shortstop Stephen Drew. Ellsbury had some alligator arms on the play and had the ball glance off his glove as Drew jumped out of the way. It was Ellsbury’s second error of the season and was enough to cause some to wonder about his jumpiness in such situations after his 2010 collision with Adrian Beltre, which virtually wiped out his season.
The error helped the Indians load the bases, but Doubront got a big strikeout of Mark Reynolds and was ahead 0-2 on Carlos Santana. However, Santana lined one into left field to score two runs, part of a very Doubront-like 27-pitch inning.
But back to the ninth: The Sox piled up three hits, three walks and two steals in the rally. Ellsbury, who has been mired in a slump for much of May, was in great need of something like a walk-off shot into the gap in left-center, and he showed a ton of elation rounding first base. Perhaps this turns his season around.
Speed limit: Doubront continues to pile up the strikeouts and did the bulk of his damage with off-speed stuff. While the fastball, much discussed in recent days due to a decrease in velocity, was missing the mark early, Doubront got his first four strikeouts on a curveball, changeup, curveball and cutter, in that order. Those last two came after consecutive walks in the second and set him on course for a few solid innings before Jason Kipnis took him deep in the fifth and Nick Swisher did the same in the sixth.
I got it?: Doubront also made a rare catch of a popup in between first base and the mound when first baseman Mike Napoli initially didn’t find the ball. That continues a recent trend for Napoli, who also dropped a popup earlier in the series and lost a ball off the catwalk in Tampa earlier this month. Not his strong suit as a first baseman.
Grand larceny: Bourn’s steal was the first of two for the Tribe. They were 8-for-8 stealing bases in the series before Bourn was thrown out at second on a pitch out in the seventh.
And that led to ...: Easily the funniest moment of the game came after Bourn argued the out call with second base umpire Tom Hallion, and really began to get worked up. Terry Francona jogged out to protect his incensed center fielder and began to discuss matters with Hallion. Then Miss New Hampshire, who was standing just about 100 feet away down the right-field line, began her rendition of “God Bless America,” which prompted Bourn, Francona and Hallion to continue their argument in hushed tones while holding their hats over their hearts. Ticked off, but patriotic.
KKKKKKKKKKKluber: While Doubront was up and down, Kluber was on his game. Rather unheralded as a minor leaguer, Kluber entered with a 5.19 ERA but had decent peripheral numbers that suggested bad luck here and there. He also throws pretty hard, as the Sox found out. The middle portion of the Boston order, specifically spots three through seven, went 0-for-12 with seven K's against Kluber. The righty struck out Napoli three times in as many encounters.
Small Papi: One of the middle-of-the-order bats shut down by Kluber was David Ortiz, who has had a complete reversal of fortunes at Fenway Park. When he began the season on a tear, Ortiz went 16-for-31 in his first eight games at home. He was 5-for-36 (.139) at Fenway since then before doubling in the ninth.
Ortiz also had his second steal of third base in a week during Boston’s winning rally, although it was an uncovered bag as the Indians were in a shift toward the right side for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Like they Drew it up: In his return from a day of rest, Drew finished a home run shy of the cycle and added a steal in the ninth. He singled, stole a base and scored during the rally.