CLEVELAND — The Red Sox have survived their most demanding stretch of the season with their modest playoff hopes intact.
Rafael Devers homered and singled, extending his robust hit streak to eight straight at-bats, and Xander Bogaerts went deep twice to lead Boston to a 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.
The Red Sox, playing their 34th game in a 34-day span, started the day 8 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot. The defending World Series champions went 15-18 with a suspended game against Kansas City to be completed on August 22.
“We’ve been saying all along we’re in this position because we haven’t played well, but we’ll see what we’ve got in the next month and a half,” Boston manager Alex Cora said, smiling. “Just find a way. I don’t know, man, it doesn’t look fun to manage this game, but it’s fun.”
Devers went 6 for 6 with four doubles Tuesday in the Red Sox’s 7-6, 10-inning win. Less than 15 hours later, he singled in the first inning and hit a solo homer in the third before being retired on a comebacker in the fifth by right-hander Shane Bieber (12-5).
The MLB record for consecutive hits is 12, last accomplished by Detroit’s Walt Dropo in 1952. Pinky Higgins had 12 straight for the Red Sox in 1938.
“It’s not little bloop hits, little infield knocks he’s getting, it’s hard to the wall,” said Bogaerts, who had three hits and four RBIs. “It’s going to reach the wall in the air or on the ground, but it’s going to reach the wall. It’s impressive.”
Bogaerts went back-to-back with Devers in the third — his 100th career homer — and added a three-run shot in the seventh off Nick Goody. The latter occurred after Mookie Betts doubled with one out and Devers was intentionally walked.
“It’s pick your poison, I mean, Devers is in one of those streaks where it looks like he’s playing softball,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “The result didn’t make me feel good, but we had an open base and pitching to a guy that’s 8 for 9 didn’t seem to make sense.”
Bogaerts admitted the strategy gave him extra motivation for his fourth multi-homer game of the season, saying, “It definitely gets you going a little bit, understanding they think you’re the weaker guy.”
Boston used seven pitchers with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0) working two innings for his first win since last Sept. 24. Left-hander Brian Johnson started and allowed an unearned run in 2 2/3 innings.
Cleveland scored its only run in the third when Francisco Lindor singled, advanced on errors by Bogaerts and Devers, and came home on a Johnson wild pitch. The Indians lead the AL wild-card race and trail first-place Minnesota by 1/2 game in the Central.
Bieber battled nausea while allowing two runs in six innings, losing for the second time in 10 starts since June 25. The All-Star Game MVP struck out eight, including his 200th of the year.
“They have a lineup that can do a lot of damage, but I’ve got to be able to combat that and be better,” Bieber said.
Indians OF Yasiel Puig served the third and final game of his suspension for taking part in an on-field altercation with the Reds against Pittsburgh. The Cuban-born slugger was sworn in as a United States citizen earlier in the day in Miami. Indians LHP Logan Allen, acquired from San Diego in the same three-team trade on July 31, made his AL debut by pitching 2 1/3 innings.
Indians RHP Corey Kluber (right forearm fracture), who has been on the injured list since May 2, will make his third rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Columbus at Charlotte. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner pitched four innings, allowing one run, for Double-A Akron on Tuesday.
Red Sox: RHP Heath Hembree (right elbow inflammation) has been on the 10-day IL since August 2, but there is no timetable for his return. He received a plasma-rich platelet injection last week.
Indians: RHP Dan Otero (right shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to pitch back-to-back days this weekend for Double-A Akron. The 34-year-old has made nine rehab appearances, posting a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings.
Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (10-9, 5.67 ERA) faces Baltimore in the opener of a three-game series Friday at Fenway Park. He has an 8.28 ERA over his last nine starts, allowing 42 earned runs in 45 2/3 innings.
Indians: RHP Adam Plutko (4-3, 4.68 ERA) starts at Yankee Stadium for the first time in his career as Cleveland begins a four-game series in New York. He is 1-1 with a 5.47 ERA in five road appearances this season.