Cleveland Indians' infielders, from left, third baseman Jose Ramirez, second baseman Jason Kipnis, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and shortstop Francisco Lindor react Thursday during a pitching change in the fifth inning against the Red Sox in Boston. AP
BOSTON — Two and a half seasons after he came to Boston, David Price is finally delivering the excitement that accompanied his arrival.
"This is the pitcher Boston signed," the Red Sox lefty said after pitching eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball to beat the Cleveland Indians 7-0 on Thursday. "For me to get back to that, it's about time."
Price (14-6) earned his fifth straight win, getting three bases-loaded doubles in a six-run fifth inning to help the Red Sox split their four-game series with the AL Central-leading Indians. After losing the first two games, Boston won twice in 20 hours to open a 9½-game lead over the idle New York Yankees in the AL East.
The Red Sox, who have the best record in baseball at 90-39, have not lost four games in a row all season, and they are the only team in the majors that has not been swept.
"Hopefully we can be the first to 100, too," said Blake Swihart, who entered the game as a pinch-runner when Mitch Moreland bruised his knee and delivered the go-ahead double in the fifth.
Price signed a seven-year, $217 million contract before the 2016 season and pitched well in his first season in Boston but has yet to win a playoff game with the Red Sox. He has allowed five runs in six starts since the All-Star break, an ERA of 1.09 that is the lowest in the league among regular starters.
On Thursday, he hit a batter but walked none, striking out seven before leaving to a standing ovation and high fives from his teammates after the top of the eighth. The Indians had not been shut out at Fenway Park since the final week of the 2009 season.
"That's a playoff-caliber team," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "That's one of the best teams in the big leagues and he was outstanding today."
Adam Plutko (4-4) matched him into the fifth, when Sandy Leon led off with a ground-rule double and moved to third on Jackie Bradley Jr.'s single. One out later, Plutko walked the bases loaded and then gave up Swihart's line drive to right-center that made it 2-0.
J.D. Martinez was intentionally walked, then Xander Bogaerts hit a one-hopper off reliever Adam Cimber that went over third baseman Jose Ramirez's head and off the tip of his glove for another two-run double. Another intentional walk loaded the bases, and then Eduardo Nunez poked a double down the first-base line to make it 6-0.
In all, Plutko allowed five runs on five hits and five walks, striking out four in 4 1/3 innings.
"He competed like crazy," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And then we got into the fifth and we just couldn't stop the bleeding."
Martinez singled in a run in the sixth — his major league-leading 109th RBI of the season — to give Boston a 7-0 lead.
Swihart entered the game as a pinch-runner in the first after first baseman Mitch Moreland aggravated an existing knee injury sliding for a foul ball. In addition to driving in the go-ahead run for the second straight game, he also had a nice scoop when Price made a bad throw to first on Roberto Perez's comebacker in the sixth.
Price knocked the ball down with his glove and scrambled behind the mound to get it, then bounced a throw to Swihart, who was playing in just the sixth game of his career at the position. The ball bounced off Swihart's glove but he grabbed it with his bare hand just in time to beat the runner.
Price also got some help when second baseman Brock Holt made an over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right in the fifth inning. And Swihart started a 3-6 double play in the eighth.
LOST IN THE SUN
Cleveland leftfielder Melky Cabrera lost Moreland's fly ball in the sun in the first inning, waving for help from his infielders before ducking out of the way of the ball. Moreland was safe with a single, giving the Red Sox runners on first and second with one out.
Plutko struck out Martinez and Bogaerts to escape.
Ramirez (2 for 14) and shortstop Francisco Lindor (3 for 17) struggled in the series.
"I thought they (Boston) did a good job, but I also think at times there's just a period where guys just don't stay as hot," Francona said.
Indians: Activated RHP Josh Tomlin from the 10-day disabled list (right hamstring strain) and put RHP Neil Ramirez (lower back spasms) on the 10-day DL.
Red Sox: Moreland left the game with a bruised left knee after sliding near a photo pit in pursuit of Yandy Diaz's foul popup in the first. Moreland remained in the game, but left for Swihart in the bottom of the first.
Indians: Open a three-game series at Kansas City, with righty Mike Clevinger (9-7) facing righty Brad Keller (6-5).
Red Sox: Travels to Tampa Bay for a three-game set. Righty Hector Velazquez (7-1) faces a Rays starter TBD.