The Indians opened a four-game series in Boston on Thursday night. And despite Terry Francona’s best efforts, the Indians’ current hot streak and happy vantage point atop the AL Central was a secondary story to his first visit to Fenway Park since being fired as the Red Sox manager at the end of the 2011 season. Fired or not, September collapse or not, lost control of the clubhouse or not, Francona is still immensely popular in Boston. He was arguably the best manager the Red Sox ever had–only Joe Cronin managed longer, only Don Zimmer had a higher winning percentage (among managers with a tenure of five years or more). And he brought the team and its fans not one but two World Series championships.
The Red Sox were polite hosts, showing a video montage before the game to welcome back “old friends,” like former Red Sox Justin Masterson, Matt Albers, Mike Aviles, Rich Hill, and coaches Brad Mills and Kevin Cash and, of course, Francona. I’m not sure whether they played the theme to Welcome Back, Kotter, but it was a warmer-than-warm welcome. In spite of Boston acting the perfect host, the Indians were not polite visitors. Instead of coming in and admiring the painting over the fireplace and complimenting the host on the hors d’oeuvres, the Tribe The Indians scored 12 runs on 16 hits, including a monster six-run 6th inning in which Cleveland sent 10 hitters to the plate. Sort of the equivalent of drinking all the booze, spitting on the floor, and setting fire to the sofa in the backyard.
It would take half the night to write a recap of every hit and every run. Some highlights/things to be happy about:
- Every hitter in the starting lineup had a hit. The only Indian without a hit was Cord Phelps, who went in for Asdrubal Cabrera late in the game and only had one at-bat.
- Every hitter in the starting lineup scored a run except for Jason Kipnis.
- We scored 12 without any home runs.
- The Red Sox scored once, on a three-run dinger by David Ortiz in the 3rd inning. To his credit, starting pitcher Zach McAllister didn’t freak out, but rolled right along, throwing 61 of his 96 pitches for strikes. He also struck out five and walked three in five innings.
- Mind-blowing fact of the night: Going into tonight’s game, Zach McAllister had a lower ERA (2.65) than Stephen Strasburg (2.66) and Yu Darvish (2.84). The three earned runs tonight brought him up to 2.89, but that’s still plenty respectable.