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Red Sox get reminder that this isn't going to be easy

August 20, 2018 - 11:54 pm

The Red Sox have lost two in a row, dropping a 5-4 decision to the Indians Monday night at Fenway Park. (For a complete recap of the Sox' loss, click here.)

After the game in the Red Sox' clubhouse panic hadn't quite set in.

Instead, there was talk among some of the hitters, comparing notes regarding a couple of new Cleveland relievers -- sidewinding Adam Cimber and lefty Brad Hand -- with the overall tone echoing more of an appreciation for a well-played game rather than the final outcome.

Then there was Eduardo Nunez's comment. This seemed to sum things up.

"It’s like practice for the real games in October," said the Red Sox infielder.

That was the reality of this one. No more. No less.

Everything about this felt like two heavyweights feeling each other out. Whether it was how starters Corey Kluber and Rick Porcello approached their opponents, or in the manner each manager matched up with their relievers.

"He made some adjustments that’s why he is who he is," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora of Kluber, who allowed three runs on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings. "He started changing speeds in hitters counts and he didn’t rely too much on the hard stuff, he started throwing changeups halfway through the game and he went 6 1/3."

As for Porcello, three homers yielding all five Cleveland runs spelled doom.

"Honestly, the pitches to Melky (Cabrera) and (Michael) Brantley, nine out of 10 guys I’ve faced don’t hit those balls out of the ballpark so I have to tip to my hat," said Porcello. "The pitch to (Greg) Allen, not trying to take anything away from him, but I think even I could’ve hit that one pretty hard. It was not a good pitch and it came at the worst possible time. I don’t think anything affected me leading up to that. I just need to make that pitch against Allen in the seventh. You got a tie game, 3-3, against a good ball club. All the guys are playing hard. I have to make a pitch and I didn’t. And it sucks. Prepared a lot, prepared to make every start, and when you allow one at-bat or one pitch to define the night. It hurts. Bounce back and move on. That one definitely hurt."

Cora faced questions about sending Porcello to the mound in the seventh with Matt Barnes warming.

"We thought the matchup was good, man at first and with the stuff he was throwing we felt comfortable with it. He just hung a changeup and we paid the price," Cora said. "But Barnesy was ... if he gets on, single, walk, whatever, Barnesy was in the game for Francisco (Lindor, who was up after Allen) because of the fastball up, breaking ball and obviously he faced him three times already so that was that."

There was Terry Francona using Cimber to come on for the Red Sox' righty hitters, and then Hand vs. the lefties (striking out Jackie Bradley Jr. with the tying run on first in the eighth inning).

All of it was fairly fascinating considering you had two of the American League's iron getting to see each other for the first time all season.

But what really should have been of note was the reminder that this is not going to be an easy road for the juggernaut that is the Red Sox.

While the A.L. is littered with teams eyeing 2020, the top shelf represents the kind of clubs that can easily beat one another on any given night. It was a notion that would be reinforced in seeing what the Indians had to offer in person. Just like the A's. Just like the Yankees. And just like the Astros.

What became truly evident in seeing Francona and Co. in person this time around was that this is more than just Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco. The Indians, like the Red Sox, seem like a pretty good team stem to stern.

"We’ve been playing this type of baseball for a while. In the division, we play in you better take it seriously," Cora said. "That’s a good baseball team, very similar to us, very similar. They can run the bases, they hit it out of the ballpark from top to bottom. They play good defense and they have good pitching. You look at them and you’re like, ‘They look like us over there.’ Very dynamic. They can hit the ball out of the ballpark, the can come back just like we do. You have to earn all 27 outs."

Welcome to the world of legitimate postseason-caliber baseball

The Red Sox have now lost consecutive games 10 times this season. It was just their fifth home loss in the last 25 games at Fenway Park. They also are now 60-10 when scoring first.