Lonnie Chisenhall’s three-run home run and Corey Kluber’s fantastic start carried the Cleveland Indians to a 6-0 victory and 2-0 lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. 

The big question on Cleveland’s side coming into Friday’s game was how Kluber would fare in his first start since leaving a September 26 game against the Detroit Tigers after four innings with a strained quad. 

Red Sox leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia put Kluber to work right away, hitting a tapper back to the mound that the 2014 American League Cy Young winner had to move to field. He fired a strike to first for the out, showing no ill effects.  

Kluber looked like one of the favorites for the 2016 AL Cy Young Award—which is a nicer way of saying he looked like himself. The right-hander went seven scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts and throwing 104 pitches. 

Sports Illustrated provided a GIF of what Boston hitters were experiencing as they tried to attack Kluber:

This start from Kluber was what the Indians needed after manager Terry Francona used Andrew Miller and Cody Allen for 40 pitches each in Game 1 to secure the victory on Thursday. 

Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw covered the final two innings to preserve the Game 2 shutout. 

Cleveland has Josh Tomlin on the hill in Game 3. He gave up 36 homers in 174 innings during the regular season, so going to Fenway Park could require Francona to turn to his relief corps early if the Indians are to put the series away.

While Kluber was busy putting up zeroes, Cleveland’s offense continued to use the long ball against Boston pitching. After the Indians hit three solo homers Thursday, Chisenhall capped off a four-run second inning against Red Sox starter David Price with a three-run laser that just cleared the wall in right field. 

It was a critical moment not just because it put the Red Sox in an early 4-0 hole against one of the best pitchers in the AL. Cleveland has been close to unbeatable this year when Kluber gets at least four runs of support, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian:

ESPN Stats & Info has the in-depth numbers to prove how hard and fast Chisenhall’s blast got out of Progressive Field:

Chisenhall, who is usually deployed against right-handed pitching, got the start against the left-handed Price. It should have been a big advantage for the Red Sox. 

Instead, Chisenhall hit his first homer of 2016 against a southpaw and left Boston searching for answers heading back home for Game 3.

Price’s postseason struggles continued Friday. He lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up five runs on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts. His playoff ERA coming into Friday was 5.12 in 63.1 innings, and he remains winless in nine postseason starts. 

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Price’s outing today also represented his shortest in the playoffs:

Going back to Rick Porcello’s start from Thursday night, MLB.com’s Ian Browne noted the Red Sox haven’t seen their two aces very long in the series:

Price and Porcello combined to throw 453 innings during the regular season with 417 strikeouts. Their struggles will force the Red Sox to turn to Clay Buchholz in Game 3 with their season on the line. 

This season was often a struggle for Buchholz, though he did look much better in the second half with a 3.22 ERA in 19 appearances. 

Just as puzzling for the Red Sox so far has been the lack of production from their lineup, with ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber providing some alarming numbers:

During the regular season, Boston’s offense led the league in virtually every major category, including runs (878), doubles (343), total bases (2,615), average (.282), on-base percentage (.348) and slugging percentage (.461). 

This is not the scenario the Red Sox wanted to find themselves in, though history is on their side. The last two times they have played the Indians in the playoffs came in the 1999 division series when Pedro Martinez’s Game 5 heroics capped off a third straight win after falling behind 2-0 and the 2007 ALCS when they came back from a 3-1 series deficit en route to their second World Series title in four seasons. 

The Indians did have a little help and motivation at Progressive Field, just in case a playoff game wasn’t enough, as Ohio’s favorite son provided a message to the team and fans in attendance before first pitch, per the team’s official Twitter account:

Whatever is happening in Cleveland right now seems to be working. Four months ago, the Cavaliers ended the city’s 52-year championship drought by pulling off a historic comeback against the Golden State Warriors. 

The Indians still have a long way to go if they want to make it two titles in 2016 for Cleveland, but the first two games of this division series against the high-powered Red Sox offense couldn’t have gone better for the Tribe. 


Postgame Reaction

After hitting his first career playoff home run, Chisenhall explained in part his approach against Price. 

“He’s difficult, but he’s around the zone. So you try to be aggressive,” Chisenhall said on the TBS broadcast, via Bastian and Browne. “Saved that big hit off a lefty for the postseason. The guys in front of me did a great job and we got him out of the game early.”

Even though Friday was another postseason letdown for Price, he did not sound like a beaten man after the game.

“I haven’t had good results yet but it’s coming,” Price said, via Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald. “I promise you that.”

Pedroia was much more reflective about things after his team fell behind 2-0 in the series while still giving credit to Cleveland for its performance thus far. 

“They’ve played better than us,” Pedroia said, via Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “…We’ve lost who we are. We’ve lost the Red Sox.”

While the Red Sox will try to find their identity in Boston before Game 3, Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis talked about how the Indians are feeding off some national media members not giving them much of a chance, via Hayden Grove of Cleveland.com:

Continuing with his us-against-the-world theme, per Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com, Kipnis said “people forget there’s a reason we opened [the series] in Cleveland and not Boston. We have a pretty good team here.”

Looking at what the Indians have a chance to do with one more win, Kipnis noted he doesn’t expect the Indians to take their foot off the throttle in Game 3. 

“When you have a chance to knock out a team early, you don’t waste any time,” Kipnis said, via Meisel. “You do it. You don’t want to let them get their footing or let them feel at home. If you get a chance to end it, you end it.”

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com