CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox received a major blow when they learned they will likely be without promising third baseman Will Middlebrooks for the rest of the season due to a broken right wrist. In their first game without him Saturday night, it was clear that they missed him.
Boston's offense continued to sputter as the Sox fell to the Indians, 5-2, in the third game of a four-game series at Progressive Field. Boston has lost four of its last five games and two of the first three in the series.
On Friday night, Boston managed to win a close game behind a stellar pitching performance by Clay Buchholz. Given the way the offense has performed lately, the Red Sox may need a start like that every time in order to find the win column.
Boston managed only four hits in the game, and the Sox were sent down in order in seven out of eight innings against Cleveland starter Zach McAllister. The Red Sox have scored a combined eight runs in the first three games of the series.
"I thought the at-bats were decent," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "The kid [McAllister] was throwing the ball where he wanted to throw it. That low and away pitch was really effective for him."
Boston's only two runs came in the fourth inning thanks, in part, to a pair of defensive blunders by the Tribe. After Jacoby Ellsbury led off the frame with a double to left-center field, Carl Crawford laid down a sacrifice bunt. McAllister retrieved the ball and turned to third in an attempt to get the lead runner, but nobody was covering the bag. By the time McAllister turned and threw to first, Crawford was safe.
Dustin Pedroia then hit a grounder to Brent Lillibridge at third base. Ellsbury bluffed down the third-base line and Lillibridge paid too much attention to him, allowing Pedroia to reach first to load the bases with nobody out. Adrian Gonzalez made the Indians pay for their mistakes with a two-run double off the wall in left, but Pedroia was easily tagged out at home.
"[Pedroia] had to slow up a little when he went around second," Valentine said. "That kind of cost him. He might have passed Carl if he didn't."
Crawford and Pedroia were within a few feet of each other when they came around third base, making things difficult for third-base coach Jerry Royster.
"It's the toughest play a third-base coach has," Valentine said. "It's almost, you're gonna hold them up, you're gonna hold them both up."
Poor baserunning hurt the Red Sox again in the sixth when Ellsbury tried to stretch a leadoff double into a triple. Michael Brantley made a strong throw from center field, and Lillbridge dove to the bag to tag him out.
"Aggressive baserunning cost us tonight," Valentine said. "If [Ellsbury] had to do it again, he wouldn't do it with no outs."
"Absolutely [I'd do it again]," he said. "It took a perfect throw. It hit off the wall, he barehanded and made a good throw. ... I wouldn't really call it a mistake. Just trying to be aggressive and make something happen. That's what you gotta do when you're not scoring runs."
The Sox failed to capitalize on their offensive opportunities outside of the Gonzalez double, and they didn't get many against McAllister. The right-hander allowed only three hits over eight innings, with four strikeouts and no walks.
"I thought I had a pretty good mix," said McAllister, who improved to 5-4 with the win. "My fastball was running a little bit more than it usually does. I usually always have a little bit of a leak back, but it was moving a little more tonight than usual."
Boston starter Franklin Morales didn't pitch poorly -- he allowed only two hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings -- but the Indians scored on nearly every one of his mistakes.
Most of the damage came courtesy of Lillibridge, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox only a couple of weeks ago. Lillibridge went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double and two RBIs against his former team, falling just a triple shy of the cycle.
"I tried to throw my fastball. That's my best pitch," Morales said of the homer he gave up to Lillibridge. "He got me. The second at-bat, he got me, too. I tried to throw the fastball in for a ball, and I missed."
The Indians took the lead for good in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Brantley, and they added single insurance runs in the seventh and eighth. Lou Marson brought home Lillibridge on a squeeze play in the seventh, and Ezequiel Carrera plated Carlos Santana with a run-scoring single in the eighth.
Still, Valentine said Morales pitched well enough to win. It was the lack of offensive production that frustrated the Red Sox.
"He pitched well," Gonzalez said of Morales. "We should have done a better job of scoring runs."
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.