BOSTON: Indians manager Terry Francona was worried before Thursday’s game that his return to Fenway Park — and all the media attention it received — might distract his relatively young team from its purpose in the first of a four-game series.
But if any of the pre-game commotion bothered them, it was impossible to tell during the Indians’ 12-3 thrashing of Francona’s former team.
Red Sox starting pitcher Ryan Dempster struggled and the aggressive Tribe batsmen pounded him for four runs on five hits and four walks in just three innings.
The Red Sox didn’t get much help when manager John Farrell, a good friend of Francona’s, went to his bullpen.
The Indians continued their onslaught against relievers Clayton Mortensen (five runs in two innings) and Alex Wilson (three runs on four hits and an error).
By the time left-hander Craig Breslow managed to keep them out of the scoring column in the seventh inning, the Indians led by nine runs.
Turns out that Francona’s return to Boston worked to fire the Indians up. Not only did the offense do its job, but also the Tribe’s pitching followed suit.
Starter Zach McAllister made just one mistake in his five-inning outing to earn the win, giving up a no-doubt home run to Red Sox slugger David Ortiz with two runners on in the third inning to cut the Indians’ lead to 4-3.
McAllister (4-3, 2.89 ERA) buckled down after the Ortiz homer.
“It made me upset,” he said. “I don’t like giving up runs of course and I definitely wanted to get the next guys out and kind of make a statement that they aren’t going to get any more runs.”
They didn’t and the Indians continued to pile on the runs thanks to 16 hits, with the big blow coming in a six-run sixth inning.
McAllister wasn’t thrilled with how he pitched but was happy with the victory.
“I thought it was OK, I didn’t think it was my best outing,” he said. “I thought I battled and was able to get us a chance with some good some defense behind me. But I was definitely happy to get the win and happy our offense did a great job tonight.”
The Tribe’s offense got started in the second inning when right fielder Drew Stubbs’ bloop double beyond first base drove in first baseman Carlos Santana, who led off with a bunt. Santana went on to walk a career-high four times in his next four trips to the plate and scored three times.
Grady Sizemore was the last Indians batter to walk four times in a game on July 19, 2008, against the Seattle Mariners.
In the third inning, designated hitter Mark Reynolds’ two-run single and third baseman Mike Aviles’ run-scoring fielder’s choice pushed the lead to 4-0 against Dempster before Stubbs struck out with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Francona liked the way the Indians responded to the atmosphere surrounding his return to Boston.
“We got in late,” Francona said. “You never make excuses, but I was thrilled with the way we came out with energy and grinded out at-bats. We made Dempster work hard and we got him out and got into the bullpen. In a four-game series, you help yourself by doing that.”
Ortiz’s big blast in the bottom of the inning gave the Red Sox life, but only temporarily.
Center fielder Michael Bourn led off the fourth inning with a double that clanked off the left-field wall and scored two batters later on shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s single to push the Indians’ lead back to two runs at 5-3.
In the fifth, Bourn’s RBI single with two outs against Mortensen made it 6-3.
The Tribe tacked on another run against Mortensen in the sixth inning on a Bourn RBI single and had the bases loaded with no outs when Farrell turned to Wilson. But Wilson couldn’t stop the bleeding, either. He yielded a run-scoring single to Reynolds followed by a two-run double by catcher Yan Gomes. Stubbs added a run-scoring triple and Bourn another RBI single as the Tribe batted around and scored six runs to make it 12-3.
Bourn finished 3-for-6 with two RBI and Reynolds was 3-for-4 with a walk and three RBI.
Reynolds was happy to be part of a special night for Francona.
“The little montage they had before the game was pretty cool. It was a class act by the Red Sox,” Reynolds said. “Tito led them to two world championships, the playoffs almost every year. It was neat to see the organization do that for him. I think I saw him teary eyed a little. It was pretty neat.”
The Indians’ bullpen provided plenty of relief for McAllister. Cody Allen set the side down in order in the bottom of the sixth and Scott Barnes blanked the Red Sox in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, finishing in the rain for his first save of the season.