CLEVELAND — When the schedule came out, the Boston Red Sox, whom many were picking to represent the American League in the World Series this year, figured to present a stiff early test for the Indians.
It’s been the other way around.
Cleveland, which employs one of the youngest rosters in baseball, beat veteran-driven Boston for the second straight night Wednesday, turning back the Red Sox, 8-4, to keep them winless on the season at 0-5.
The Indians (3-2), who won their third straight game, were powered by three home runs from Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Matt LaPorta, the long ball accounting for six of the runs on the night.
The Indians have already secured the series against the AL heavyweight and go for their first three-game sweep of Boston since Aug. 28-30, 2001, in Cleveland.
“For us, it’s huge for our confidence to take the series away from them,” said Indians starting pitcher Mitch Talbot, who did not figure in the decision after allowing two runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings.
Cleveland started the season with two embarrassing losses to Central Division rival Chicago before avoiding the sweep with its first win Sunday. The Indians have carried that momentum into the series with Boston.
“You’re never satisfied but we’re pretty satisfied that we clinched .500 against two of the best teams in the American League,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said.
Both starting pitchers, Talbot and Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, worked short outings, Talbot failing to make it to the fifth inning, and the Red Sox right-hander lasting just five.
Talbot, who struggled mightily this spring, allowed Boston to tie the game at two in the second inning, then came back to offer up his best work of the night in the third.
With runners on second and third and no outs, Talbot struck out the dangerous Kevin Youkilis before David Ortiz lined to short. Talbot then struck out J.D. Drew to end the inning without a run crossing the plate.
“I just made good pitches when I had to, plain and simple,” said Talbot, who struck out seven. “That was a big swing right there. It could’ve been really bad.”
Cleveland, which got its first runs on Choo’s two-run homer off Matsuzaka in the opening inning, scored once in the third to retake the lead.
Then the Indians took control of the game in the sixth inning, turning a one-run game into a non-save situation, thanks in large part to the Boston bullpen.
Dennis Reyes started the inning in place of Matsuzaka, hitting the first two batters he faced — Travis Buck and LaPorta — then walking Jack Hannahan to load the bases.
Dan Wheeler replaced Reyes and got Michael Brantley to lift a soft liner to third that Youkilis looked as though he purposely dropped to keep a double play intact before stepping on third base and throwing home.
Boston catcher Jason Varitek had to tag Buck for the out, but only stepped on the plate, as home plate umpire Dale Scott signaled Buck safe.
Asdrubal Cabrera followed and put the game away with a three-run homer over the right-field wall.
LaPorta’s solo shot in the eighth — his first homer of the season — scored the Indians’ final run.
Cleveland’s bullpen was far more effective than Boston’s, with five relievers combining to allow two runs over the final 4 2/3 innings, right-hander Frank Herrmann serving up both of them on a homer from Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh.
Chad Durbin came on for Talbot with runners on first and third and one out in the fifth and struck out Youkilis before Rafael Perez retired the final batter of the inning.
Left-hander Tony Sipp and right-hander Vinnie Pestano didn’t allow a baserunner over the final two innings.
“The bullpen was just fantastic,” Acta said. “Durbin’s strikeout was huge.”
The Indians have drawn inspiration from facing the Red Sox.
“Anytime you play the Red Sox you want to give 100 percent,” Asdrubal Cabrera said. “You know they’re one of the best teams in the league. We’ve played hard.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and Twitter.