CLEVELAND — Joy eluded the Red Sox once more. Their celebratory moment in the ninth quickly turned to gloom.
Such has been the season, right?
What looked like a Red Sox comeback win ended in a walkoff defeat Monday night.
Xander Bogaerts had tied the game, 5-5, on a two-out RBI double to right field off Indians closer Brad Hand in the ninth.
But in the bottom half, Carlos Santana led off by crushing a homer to left-center off Marcus Walden. Just like that, the Red Sox lost once more, 6-5. The Indians are having the summer the Red Sox have been waiting on from their club. The win placed the Indians in sole possession of first in the American League Central for the first time since April 20.
The Sox, meanwhile, have dropped to 17½ games behind the Yankees and eight games out of the second wild-card spot.
“It’s tough, it’s very tough,” manager Alex Cora said. “We don’t like losing.”
Two swings here or there has been part of the tale that has summed up this season.It played out again throughout this one. The pitch by Walden was supposed to be a slider down and in, yet it hung on the outside part of the plate, enough for Santana to take it where it was pitched. Enough to make a postseason berth look more like a distant illusion for the Red Sox.
“I was kind of hoping it would hit the top of the wall the same way [Bogaerts’s] did,” Walden said, referring to Bogaerts’s double. “That’s a tough one. It was a big game for us to win.”
Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez issued a two-out walk to Santana in the first and the next hitter, Franmil Reyes, made Rodriguez and the Sox pay with a two-run homer. Like Walden, Rodriguez missed his spot. He wanted to get the ball up more. However, it caught the top-half of the strike zone and then the Reyes’ barrel.
The Sox got one back in the second inning. J.D. Martinez singled off Indians starter Zach Plesac and Andrew Benintendi then doubled off the left-field wall, allowing Martinez to score all the way from first.
Yet after retiring Cleveland’s Oscar Mercado on a groundout in the third, Rodriguez surrendered back-to-back singles, which set the stage for a three-run homer by Jose Ramirez. On a 2-2 count, Rodriguez tried to fool Ramirez on a curveball. He wanted to bounce it. But he left it up enough for Ramirez to park it in the left-field stands.
“As a pitcher if you miss, you’re going to pay for it,” Rodriguez said. “The last couple of games have been that way for the starters.”
The Sox didn’t go away, though. Martinez homered in the fourth. Later on, Mitch Moreland beat the shift with a single to left-center field. A wild pitch put Moreland at second, and Brock Holt doubled to score Moreland.
Rodriguez recovered from his early struggles, working three straight scoreless innings. The sixth inning was a big one for Rodriguez.
Jackie Bradley Jr. slipped in center on a routine fly ball, which put Tyler Naquin, at first. But Rodriguez got Francisco Lindor to line out and struck out Mercado. Santana’s single up the middle put runners on first and second. After a brief mound visit by Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie, Rodriguez struck out Reyes to end the frame and his night.
In the seventh, Bradley belted his 13th homer of the season, this one coming off Tyler Clippard, to make it a 5-4 game.
Darwinzon Hernandez took over for Rodriguez in the seventh and immediately allowed a Ramirez double. Roberto Perez’s sacrifice advanced Ramirez to third. But Hernandez struck out Jason Kipnis on a 97-mile-per-hour heater and a groundout by Greg Allen to third baseman Rafael Devers end the inning. The Sox knocked on the door in the eighth but left runners on second and third.
In the ninth, the magic that has escaped the Red Sox’ grip finally appeared again. Bogaerts’s double that scored Mookie Betts to tie it off Hand made it seem this night would swing in the Red Sox’ favor. It was short-lived, however. The comeback was just a tease. The intent didn’t turn to execution for the Red Sox in this one.
“There’s two ways we could do it,” Martinez said. “We can hang our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves or we can just keep going out there every day.”
The magic quickly evaporated as the Indians walked off with the joy the Red Sox have been searching for all season.
“It’s tough, man,” a dejected Bogaerts said. “I really don’t know what to say.”