CLEVELAND — Another night, another dramatic win for the Indians over the best team in baseball.
For the second straight game, Cleveland notched a walk-off victory over the Boston Red Sox, winning 4-3 in 11 innings at Progressive Field in a nationally televised game Sunday night.
Michael Brantley was the hero Saturday night and this time around it was Greg Allen, who shot a hard grounder through the hole between third base and shortstop to score Jose Ramirez and touch off another postgame celebration.
The win was a bit more special, coming in the final home game of the season.
“If that game tonight was in a couple weeks (in the postseason), that’d be one for the ages,” said manager Terry Francona, whose team had to go extra innings in three of the last four games. “It was a fun game. Both teams again used a lot of guys and a lot of pitchers, but it was a fun game. Everybody approached it the right way and we got a win out of it.”
Though both teams have already wrapped up division titles, the Indians prevented Boston from clinching home-field advantage throughout the postseason and recording its franchise-record 106th win.
“Any team that wins 105, or however many they have, they tell you, ‘Oh, these games don’t mean anything,’” said Cleveland starting pitcher Adam Plutko, who allowed three runs over six innings.
“Really? Well, you have 105 wins. Clearly you guys want to win ballgames and we want to win ballgames. So I think that competitiveness is there whether it’s a meaningless game or whatever. Every team wants to win.”
“That’s a team that possibly we can face in the postseason, so it’s fun,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “It seems like every day it’s someone different and I love it. Playing games like this is fun, especially with how the weather is. This reminds me of October.”
In his 12th start of the season, Plutko allowed a run in the first and third innings, then, after the Indians scored three times to take the lead in the fourth, surrendered a game-tying solo home run to Mookie Betts to lead off the fifth.
“I thought he was pretty good,” Francona said of Plutko. “He ended up getting deep enough. He threw a lot of pitches but got us through six. He bent but didn’t break and as he got into the game started making a lot of good pitches.”
Betts had a big night for the BoSox, collecting four of his team’s eight hits, scoring a run and driving one in.
Cleveland scored all but one of its runs in the fourth, getting an RBI single from Edwin Encarnacion to bring in Michael Brantley, before taking its first lead on a two-out, two-run double to the right-field corner from Melky Cabrera.
It was the 100th RBI for Encarnacion, who joined Jose Ramirez as the only players on the team to have reached the century mark thus far.
Encarnacion entered the season with the most homers (231) and the fifth-most RBIs (550) in the majors from 2012-17 and he has produced at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs for the seventh straight year.
“As long as he stays healthy, you can pretty much pen and ink it in that he’s going to get 100 RBIs,” Francona said. “He does it every year. That’s what he brings. It’s nice knowing that going into a year.”
The teams went scoreless from the sixth to 10th innings and after Josh Tomlin tossed his second straight shutout inning, the Indians went to work against Robby Scott.
Ramirez drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Rajai Davis. Erik Gonzalez reached on an error and Yandy Diaz was walked intentionally to load the bases for Allen.
Allen fouled off a number of two-strike pitches before connecting on the game-winning hit.
“I had to grind out that AB,” Allen said. “He made some good pitches. I had to foul off a few. I was fortunate to be able to get some bat on that one and find a hole.”
The two teams, who could meet again in the ALCS, played pretty evenly during the regular season, with the Indians winning four of seven games — two of three at Progressive Field.
The Indians drew 27,879 fans to the home regular-season finale, bringing their season total to 1,926,701 over 80 dates — an average of 24,784. Last year, they averaged 25,285 fans at Progressive Field.