CLEVELAND (AP) — José Ramírez homered in the eighth inning, Tyler Freeman and Bryan Rocchio had RBIs in the seventh when Cleveland finally got to Boston’s Tanner Houck and the Guardians kept up the best start in their 124-year history with a 4-1 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

Ramírez, who had some recent tough luck on hard-hit balls, connected leading off the eighth inning against Cam Booser for his fourth homer.

Batting right-handed, the switch-hitting Ramírez drove a 1-2 pitch that was off the plate into the right-field seats — his first opposite-field homer from the right side since 2017.

“That ball was up and away and he barrels it and hits it out of the ballpark,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He’s a stud. He’s a good player. Obviously, I’m not rooting for him but you’re in awe. I was like, ‘For real, bro?’

“He’s amazing and that at-bat tells the whole story. He’s one of the best players in baseball.”

Cora got no argument from first-year Guardians manager Stephen Vogt, who remembers playing against Ramírez.

“I was in awe of him for years and now I like being in awe of him,” Vogt said. “That top tier of player, they do things that almost every night make your jaw drop.”

Houck (3-2) threw a three-hit shutout against the Guardians last week. He held them scoreless for six more innings before Freeman hit a run-scoring single and Rocchio added a sacrifice fly off reliever Brennan Bernardino.

An early-season surprise, the Guardians won their fifth straight and improved MLB’s best record to 17-6, matching the club’s best start through 23 games.

Cleveland also was 17-6 in 1999 and 1966.

“Right now, it’s just a number,” said outfielder Will Brennan said of Cleveland’s hot start. “It’s early. It’s April, but we know that our preparation’s going to continue to put us in positions to win ballgames.

“With our pitching and the way our offense is, it’s going to be tough to beat us.”

Wilyer Abreu homered for the Red Sox, who were held in check for six innings by Ben Lively.

Making his debut at Progressive Field, Lively warmed up to “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles and then allowed just one run and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked none and struck out seven.

Lively joked that some of his young teammates didn’t recognize his music choice.

“A lot of the kids in the dugout didn’t know what song it was,” he said. “I like old songs. I listen to everything.”

Scott Barlow (1-2) got two outs in the seventh, Hunter Gaddis pitched the eighth and Emmanuel Clase struck out the side in the ninth for his seventh save in nine chances.

The Guardians finally ended Houck’s scoreless streak against them at 15 innings on Freeman’s RBI single in the seventh.

Brennan doubled leading off inning and scored on Freeman’s single up the middle. Freeman stole second before Houck walked Estevan Florial and Cora brought in Bernardino, who walked pinch-hitter David Fry and gave up Rocchio’s sac fly.

Red Sox outfielder Tyler O’Neill went 1 for 4 in his first game back since colliding last week with third baseman Rafael Devers chasing a pop up. O’Neill sustained a concussion and needed eight stitched to close a cut in his head.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: 1B Triston Casas (broken rib) is out indefinitely after injuring himself while making a swing on Saturday in Pittsburgh. Casas, who had six homers already this season, told Cora that he had discomfort last week before getting hurt fouling off a pitch. … Devers (knee bone bruise) was expected to play for the first time since April 17, but Cora delayed his return because of the wet conditions. Devers will play Wednesday.

Guardians: RHP Gavin Williams (elbow) has not yet met with the team’s medical staff to determine the next step in his rehab. Williams pitched three innings on Saturday in Arizona without any issues before flying to Cleveland. Williams hurt his elbow throwing a weighted ball in March.

UP NEXT

Guardians RHP Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 3.44) faces the Red Sox after beating them last week for his first win with Cleveland since 2020. Boston will start RHP Cooper Criswell (0-1, 4.26).

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB