CLEVELAND — It was about as good as it gets for the sellout crowd of 35,095 fans at Progressive Field on Saturday night.
They got to see free baseball — extra innings — and the Indians sent them home with a win over the best team in the majors, the Boston Red Sox.
After squandering an opportunity in the 10th inning, Cleveland came through in the 11th, beating Boston 5-4 on Michael Brantley’s walk-off single over the head of left fielder Andrew Benintendi.
“I thought both teams, they played really good baseball and kept playing,” manager Terry Francona said. “A lot of things happened, a lot of things were going on and both teams used a lot of players, but they played the game the right way.
“I think that was good for us. It was a good crowd, we played a great team and you find a way to win. So there was a lot of good stuff.”
For the second straight night, the Red Sox walked Francisco Lindor to get to Brantley with the game on the line. This time he delivered.
“I wasn’t happy that I got out (Friday), of course,” said Brantley, who fouled out in the eighth inning of a 7-5 loss. “But at the same time, I got a chance to redeem myself today and we got a ‘W’ because of it.
“It never gets old. I like winning, so to go out and get it done for your team, there’s no better feeling.”
It was a brief outing for Indians starter Mike Clevinger, who allowed a pair of solo home runs over five innings. The right-hander struggled with command, walking five and hitting a batter — all within the first three innings.
“When we took him out he said, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said, ‘Man, I feel like you threw 140 pitches in a half hour,’” Francona said. “That was a lot of pitches. And he was behind, hitting guys, but he competed. For the most part, he came out and kept them off the scoreboard, but he was pitching behind and he was kind of all over the place. Velocity was terrific but just didn’t really locate very well.”
Clevinger was able to record his 200th strikeout, joining Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco to give the Indians four pitchers to hit that milestone in the same season — the first time it has happened in the majors.
Only eight big league pitchers have reached the 200-strikeout level this year and Cleveland has half of them.
“It’s special,” Clevinger said. “A lot of people are gonna say it’s our division or whatever the case may be, but there’s a lot of process that went into all of our stories and how we got here. I’m just proud to be a part of this and part of this starting rotation. It took a while to get into and you can see why.”
“That’s an outstanding accomplishment,” Brantley said. “Those guys have been out there all year, have been our horses. We’re very appreciative of what they’ve done.”
The Indians had a solid approach against Red Sox starter and 2016 AL Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello.
Cleveland scored four times in the first four innings off the right-hander, who, like Clevinger, only lasted five innings.
An RBI double from Yan Gomes and a two-out single from Lindor put the Indians in front 2-0 in the second.
After Clevinger allowed his first solo shot to Rafael Devers in the third, Josh Donaldson put Cleveland back up by two runs with a two-out single in the bottom of the inning.
Blake Swihart took Clevinger deep to start the fourth, but the Indians answered in the bottom of the inning again on another RBI single from Lindor.
Boston rallied to tie it in the eighth on consecutive hits off left-hander Brad Hand, the second a two-run single from Benintendi.
Cleveland put the first two aboard in the 10th on walks, but went scoreless after Donaldson and Yonder Alonso struck out and pinch hitter Yandy Diaz grounded out.
The first two reached again in the 11th on singles from Gomes and Greg Allen. Pinch runner Rajai Davis and Allen pulled off a double steal and Boston walked Lindor intentionally to load the bases and set the stage for Brantley.
It was the ninth sellout of the season for the Indians, who entered the night ranked ninth in AL attendance, averaging 23,894 fans.