CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber didn’t show a speck of rust. Well-rested and ready for the biggest start of his career, he wasn’t going to let the Indians lose any momentum.
Cleveland’s on some kind of roll.
Fueled by a crowd that included Cavaliers star LeBron James, Kluber carried a shutout into the eighth inning and Lonnie Chisenhall connected for a three-run homer off postseason-cursed David Price, giving the Indians a 6-0 win on Friday over the Boston Red Sox and a 2-0 lead in their AL Division Series.
Looking healthy after a late-season leg injury, Kluber limited the AL East champions to three hits over seven innings as the overlooked Indians, who were given a slim chance of advancing before the series began, moved within one win of returning to the ALCS for the first time since 2007.
“We don’t have the big names. We don’t have the big contracts or any of that stuff,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “But we have 25 guys who love to compete and have bought into this team. That’s what we’ve got.”
As the for the Red Sox, David Ortiz and his teammates are in serious trouble and have to hope they can get things turned around Sunday in Game 3 at Fenway Park or their turnaround season will be over and Big Papi’s career will be done.
“Backs against the wall,” manager John Farrell said. “It’s pretty clear what lies ahead of us. We go home down 0-2. (Clay) Buchholz on the mound Sunday with an attitude of no tomorrow.”
Chisenhall connected in the second inning off Price, who fell to 0-8 in nine playoff starts and must now face the wrath of Red Sox Nation. The left-hander lasted just 3 1/3 innings and once again crumbled with a chance to silence critics who say he can’t pitch in the big game.
Despite the loss, a defiant Price is convinced he’ll get another chance.
“I know my number is going to be called again to pitch another game in 2016,” he said. “I want it. I’ll be ready.”
The Indians strung together four straight hits — three of them soft singles — to Price in a 4-0 hole after just two innings.
That’s all Kluber needed. The Cy Young candidate, who hadn’t pitched since straining his quadriceps on Sept. 26, had little issues with the Red Sox, who missed a chance to do some damage against him in the fourth.
Kluber created the jam with two walks before getting Ortiz to swing at the first pitch and pop out. Ortiz slammed his bat to the ground in frustration and Boston’s anxiety grew when Kluber struck out Hanley Ramirez looking for the final out.
“We talked before the game about would he be a little bit rusty or would he be really good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He answered that question. He was terrific. You go through that lineup and don’t give up runs, you’re pitching.”
Chisenhall’s start was somewhat of a surprise since he batted just .217 against lefties this season.
Francona, however, likes to put his best defense behind Kluber, plus Chisenhall came in batting .364 in his career against Price. The decision paid off in a big way early as Chisenhall’s liner to right in the second gave the Indians a 4-0 lead.
As he neared first, Chisenhall raised his arms in triumph. The rest is a blur.
“I don’t remember too much running around the bases,” he said. “I remember seeing it go out and I knew it was a home run, so I slowed down pretty quickly. It was a quick run around the bases.”
Before the Indians took the field, James, who led the Cavaliers to the city’s first pro sports championship since 1964 in June, spoke to the crowd.
“It’s always us against the world,” James said.
Right now, Cleveland’s on top.
If anyone knows what awaits the Indians, it’s Mike Napoli, who played three seasons in Boston, winning a World Series in 2013.
“We can’t let off the pedal with their type of lineup and their fans,” Napoli said. “I know what it’s like to play there. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere. We need to stick together and keep playing like we know how to.”
The Indians have taken a 2-0 lead in the postseason four times. They are 2-1 with the only loss to Boston in the ALDS. … It was Cleveland’s first postseason shutout since Game 1 of the 2001 ALDS against Seattle. … Kluber joined Gene Bearden (1948 World Series Game 3) as the only Cleveland pitchers to throw at least seven shutout innings in their postseason debut.
Red Sox: Buchholz has had interesting season. He had a 6.35 ERA in his first 10 starts and was demoted to the bullpen. He has tweaked his mechanics and strengthened Farrell’s trust by pitching six innings of one-hit ball in his last regular-season start.
Indians: Josh Tomlin lost to the Red Sox on Aug. 15, allowing three runs in 7 2-3 innings.