The Cleveland Indians are attempting to match the Cavaliers by bringing a championship to their city in 2016.

They took the first step Thursday at Progressive Field with a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Home runs by Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor and a stellar performance from their bullpen powered the win. All three long balls came in the third inning, while an RBI single by Kipnis drove in what proved to be the winning run in the fifth.

Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer lasted just 4.2 innings for Cleveland, allowing three earned runs and six hits. But the combination of Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen allowed just one more run for the rest of the game. Miller was particularly impressive with four strikeouts in two clutch middle innings, and Allen earned a 1.2-inning save with four punchouts of his own.

ESPN Stats & Info noted it was Allen’s first five-out save of the season, while T.J. Zuppe of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland underscored how important the bullpen was Thursday:

Allen ended the night by striking out Dustin Pedroia, who failed to check his swing on a full count:

Boston starting pitcher Rick Porcello allowed five earned runs and six hits in 4.1 innings. Its bullpen was also effective, as Drew Pomeranz, Joe Kelly and Koji Uehara didn’t allow an earned run in 3.2 combined frames.

The Red Sox offense, which led MLB in runs scored, wasted little time jumping on Bauer. Pedroia doubled to lead things off and moved to third on Brock Holt’s single. They each appeared to score on Hanley Ramirez’s double, but Holt was eventually called out after a replay review.

Daren Willman of praised the efficiency of Cleveland’s relay:

The Indians responded in the second, when Jose Ramirez doubled and scored on Lonnie Chisenhall’s single. Another review called Chisenhall out after he attempted to reach second base, but he did enough to drive in Cleveland’s first postseason run since 2007.

The offense continued in the third, but from unexpected sources. Each team’s No. 9 hitter drilled a solo home run. Andrew Benintendi gave Boston a brief lead in his first postseason at-bat, and Perez answered with a dinger of his own.

Cleveland was far from done. Kipnis and Lindor drilled back-to-back homers, and Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal pointed out how rare the feat was against Porcello:

The Indians noted it wasn’t the first time they had connected with three home runs in a playoff inning:

Sandy Leon continued the power surge with a long ball in the fifth to trim Boston’s deficit to 4-3. Bauer couldn’t finish the inning, and manager Terry Francona didn’t hesitate to give the ball to Miller. The southpaw allowed a double to Holt and walked Mookie Betts, but he struck out David Ortiz in a pressure-packed moment.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe described why Ortiz was overmatched in the showdown:

Porcello didn’t last through the fifth, either, as Boston manager John Farrell inserted Pomeranz. He failed to strand Porcello’s runner, immediately allowing an RBI single to Kipnis. It would have been worse, but Mike Napoli’s drive down the line bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double, forcing Kipnis to hold at third.

Chisenhall struck out with the bases loaded two batters later.

Miller and Pomeranz each settled in and kept the game at 5-3. Miller struck out two in the sixth and one in the seventh, while Pomeranz struck out the side in the sixth and recorded one strikeout in the seventh. Sean McAdam of pointed out Miller’s outing wasn’t all good news for Cleveland:

The Indians missed Miller in the eighth, when Shaw gave up a solo home run to Holt, who was just a triple short of the cycle. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander noticed there was a pattern at Progressive Field:

Allen kept it in the ballpark in relief of Shaw, although he allowed a double to Ortiz. He escaped the jam by inducing a groundout from Ramirez and striking out Xander Bogaerts.

Allen didn’t appear fatigued when he took the mound in the ninth and struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. and Leon before Benintendi delivered a single to keep Boston alive. However, Allen struck out Pedroia to close out the victory. MacPherson noted the second baseman was “livid” with the call, as he was already on his way to first base because he thought he had checked his swing and earned a walk.


What’s Next?

Game 2 is Friday in Cleveland.

While the Indians earned the early lead in the series, the Red Sox are still one victory away from being in ideal position. Boston can steal home-field advantage with a Game 2 win before things shift to Fenway Park, but Cleveland could seize a commanding lead before it even leaves home with a win Friday.

Game 2 will be a showdown of aces, with David Price toeing the rubber for Boston and Corey Kluber doing the same for Cleveland.

Price faced Cleveland just once this season, allowing two earned runs and striking out 10 in six innings. Kluber faced Boston twice with mixed results. He gave up four earned runs and nine hits in 5.1 innings April 5, but he was better May 20, allowing only two earned runs and five hits in seven innings.


Postgame Reaction

Bauer said, “That was the coolest experience of my life,” when asked about the atmosphere, per Zuppe.

Zuppe shared more of the starting pitcher’s thoughts after the win:

Allen praised the Red Sox after the hard-fought save, per MacPherson: “They’re so relentless. … They put up professional at-bats after professional at-bats.”

On the other side, Pedroia talked about the umpire who called him out on the check swing, per Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald: “I’ll apologize to Phil [Cuzzi] tomorrow for yelling at him.”

Ortiz had a positive outlook even after the defeat, per McAdam: “Hey, listen this is not over yet…I’m gonna bring my best tomorrow, and I’m sure my teammates will too. See you all manana.”

If the Red Sox do that, this series will be tied as it moves to Boston.

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