Francona-led Indians Batter Sox, 12-3, Take Series Opener

Ryan Dempster struggled for his second straight outing, and only pitched three innings, as the Red Sox were clobbered 12-3 by the Cleveland Indians in Terry Francona’s return to Fenway Thursday night.  The Indians collected 16 hits, including going 8-19 with runners in scoring position in the blowout, while Indians righty Zach McAllister got the victory for Cleveland.

Francona was honored before the game with a video tribute on the centerfield scoreboard showing his highlights during his eight year tenure with the Red Sox.

“I tried to keep my emotions inside,” said Francona, who led the Red Sox to two World Series championships in eight years. “I didn’t want to be the main focus. You want to let the players play.”

The Sox fell behind early, 4-0, after Drew Stubbs doubled home a run with two outs in the second, and the Indians picked up three more in the third. A single by Asdrubal Cabrera and back-to-back walks to Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana loaded the bases with one down.  Mark Reynolds promptly singled home Cabrera and Brantley. Dempster walked catcher Yan Gomes to reload the bags, and Mike Aviles put the final nail in Dempster’s coffin with an RBI fielder’s choice before Stubbs struck out to end the inning.

Boston made it interesting in the home half, however, and climbed back into the game. Jacoby Ellsbury pushed a bunt single to third, and Daniel Nava walked to lead off the inning.  On a 2-1 pitch, Dustin Pedroia scorched a single up the middle, and Ellsbury, who paused slightly to make sure the second baseman didn’t snare it, motored towards home.  Centerfielder Michael Bourn quickly received the liner and threw home, and Ellsbury was gunned down at the plate.  Fortunately for Boston, David Ortiz destroyed the first pitch he saw into the crowd in rightfield, cutting the Indians lead to 4-3.

David Ortiz admires his 446 foot blast, the only noise Boston could muster.

David Ortiz admires his 446 foot blast, the only noise Boston could muster.

With Mortensen replacing Dempster, the Indians tacked on single runs in the fourth and fifth to put a cushion on their slim lead. Slim would turn into annihilation in the sixth, as Cleveland slugged their way to six runs. Mortensen loaded the bases with no one out on two walks and a single, and Alex Wilson replaced him to face the red-hot Reynolds.  The Indians DH would come through for the second time with the bases loaded, bringing home Cabrera.  Gomes then added a two-run double to just about put it out of reach at 9-3.  Stubbs tripled to score Reynolds and Gomes, and Bourn capped the inning with a single to right, sending Boston fans into the muggy night early.

Cody Allen and Scott Barnes came on to shut down the Red Sox for four innings of two-hit ball, striking out six.  With the game long in the bag, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Miller combined for three shutout frames to stop Cleveland from putting up 50 runs, which after the sixth inning showing, only seemed reasonably unlikely at best.

After the game, Ryan Dempster was very blunt about his recent performance.

“My command has been terrible,” he said. “I have walked 10 guys in the last nine innings. Bottom line is I’ve got to fix that. I can’t get myself in that kind of trouble.”

The Red Sox will look to reclaim the series tonight when John Lackey looks to build on his spectacular start in Minnesota earlier this week.  He will face former Sox right-hander, and current ace of the Cleveland Indians Justin Masterson.

Inside the Game

-The Indians have the most wins in the Majors in May, with a 16-6 record

-Ryan Dempster over his last three outings has pitched just 12 2/3, allowing 20 hits, 11 walks, and 15 earned runs, rasing his ERA from 2.93 to 4.69.

-Boston dropped to 2-6 at home for May, but are a respectable 8-6 away from Fenway.

Jay Coorey – MLB Contributor  – Title Town Sports

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