CLEVELAND — Trevor Bauer took a step toward securing a spot in Cleveland’s postseason rotation Friday night, but the Red Sox beat the Indians 7-5 at Progressive Field in the opener of a three-game series that will cap the final homestand of the year.
Bauer pitched 11⁄3 scoreless innings in his first appearance since breaking his right leg on Aug. 11. He was 12-6 with a 2.22 ERA when was struck on the lower leg by a line drive hit by Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s been a frustrating five and a half weeks for me not being able to be out there,” Bauer said. “It’s definitely nice to get back in a game situation, especially jumping back in against a team like the Red Sox. They’ve been the best team in baseball this year.”
Boston went 86 years between World Series titles, and is on the cusp of eclipsing an even older milestone, tying a team record more than a century old with its 105th win. The AL East champion Red Sox (105-49), playing without several of their regulars, matched the club mark set in 1912.
“It was great, to have all the guys even the ones that didn’t play at the top step, it was like a regular game,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “It was a fun game overall, good energy. It was a long night, we got here late and for them to come here and play was fun.”
Boston’s magic number to have home-field advantage throughout the postseason was also reduced to one.
Boston ace Chris Sale, being eased back into the rotation after recent shoulder trouble, struck out seven in 3 1/3 innings. He allowed two runs in his third start back from the disabled list.
“That’s a good offensive team so that’s a good test,” Cora said. “He’s feeling fine so we will see how he reacts feeling the next few days.”
Cora said Sale will start against Baltimore on Wednesday.
Josh Donaldson homered off Sale in the fourth, ending the lefty’s 35-inning consecutive scoreless streak. It was the first homer off Sale in 75 innings.
Donaldson was acquired from Toronto on Aug. 31 after missing three months with a calf injury. His homer on a 1-2 pitch landed in the left field bleachers and was his second with the Indians and seventh of the season.
The Red Sox used nine pitchers against the AL Central champion Indians. Matt Barnes (6-3) pitched a scoreless sixth and Craig Kimbrel worked the ninth for his 42nd save.
Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. were out of Boston’s lineup. Rafael Devers homered and Travis, who had three RBIs, for the Red Sox, who used a four-run seventh to erase a 4-2 deficit.
Shane Bieber (10-5) allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Bauer allowed two hits, walked one and struck out J.D. Martinez, the major league RBIs leader. He threw 34 pitches — 17 strikes — and was pulled after allowing one-out singles to Steve Pearce and Brock Holt in the second.
Bauer is scheduled to start Tuesday against the White Sox and will pitch in Kansas City next weekend.
“The health, the feeling in the ankle, has been better,” Bauer said. “So everything’s trending in a very positive direction.”
Left-hander Robby Scott retired Michael Brantley on a foul out to left with the bases loaded to end the eighth. Cora decided to intentionally walk Francisco Lindor to set up the situation.
“We don’t walk too many people, but I’m not going to let him (Lindor) beat me there,” Cora said. “I’d rather walk him and take a chance with Brantley with that matchup.”
Donaldson was the DH on Friday and will play third base Saturday and Sunday. He’s batting .217 (5 for 23) with Cleveland, but is feeling comfortable at the plate.
“I haven’t had much of the results, but I’ve hit some balls hard,” Donaldson said. “As long my approach and how I’m seeing the ball, my pitch recognition, is up to par, and I’m hitting the ball solid, there’s not much more I can ask for.”
Donaldson says Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald put him in touch with a doctor who specializes in soft tissue injuries during his rehab that helped the recovery process.
Devers hit his 18th home run and has had two hits in each of the last two games.
“He’s good,” Cora said. “He’s putting in good swings. You can see there’s a lot of confidence in him.”
Red Sox: INF Eduardo Nunez (left hamstring) is expected to miss the series. He was injured beating out an infield hit Wednesday.
RHP Rick Porcello (17-7, 4.30 ERA), the team leader in wins, starts Saturday for Boston. RHP Mike Clevinger (12-8, 3.06 ERA) starts against the Red Sox for the first time this season.