Series Preview #5: Boston Red Sox (8-4) at Cleveland Indians (5-6)
Bob Toth | On 16, Apr 2013
In the grand scope of human existence, we are sometimes reminded in the most horrifying and reprehensible ways that there are more important things than sports. The tragic and deplorable events that transpired Monday afternoon in Boston are a prime example. We turn to baseball now to provide temporary relief and distraction from the grim reminder that the world in which we live can be oftentimes too short and too violent.
With heavy hearts, the Boston Red Sox are in Cleveland for a three-game midweek matchup. The series will mark the first time that they will oppose the manager who helped end their 86-year World Series championship drought, Terry Francona.
Cleveland enjoyed its first scheduled day off of the season on Monday, and the timing could not have been better, as the team has fought injuries to several key contributors on offense. Boston will become the fourth American League East team they have played in the season’s first five series.
The Red Sox (8-4) come to town riding a three-game winning streak after sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.
Friday night’s series opener was postponed by inclement weather. The series resumed Saturday and took ten innings to decide a winner, but a Shane Victorino game-winning one-out single gave the Red Sox a 2-1 edge over David Price and the Rays. Boston starter Jon Lester pitched seven innings and allowed one run on five hits while striking out five. Their bullpen gave up just one hit over the final three frames. David Ross’s fifth inning home run provided the other Boston run.
Clay Buchholz carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning and got his third win of the season as Boston blanked Tampa, 5-0, on Sunday. Buchholz allowed just two hits on the afternoon, walked four, and struck out eleven. Mike Napoli led the way for the Sox with a two-run double in the third off of Rays starter Alex Cobb.
The rare Monday 11:05 AM start for Patriots’ Day in Boston was won by the Red Sox, 3-2, again with late inning magic. A pitchers’ duel between Tampa’s Jeremy Hellickson and Boston’s Ryan Dempster was the main event. Both pitchers worked seven innings. Hellickson allowed two earned runs on three hits, walked one, and struck out nine. Dempster was just a bit better, allowing one earned run on two hits, walking two, and striking out ten. Andrew Bailey had a blown save in the ninth after giving up an RBI single to Ben Zobrist, but earned the win when Napoli delivered the game-ending RBI-double in the bottom of the inning.
After their sweep of the Rays, the Red Sox find themselves sitting alone in first place in the AL East, a game and a half ahead of the New York Yankees.
The Red Sox will still be without slugger David Ortiz. The designated hitter, on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right Achilles tendon, was supposed to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket but was scratched Monday with right heel pain.
Closer Joel Hanrahan was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday morning with a right hamstring strain. Bailey will continue to close in his absence.
Former Indians farmhand Steven Wright has been called up from Pawtucket to replace Hanrahan. The 28-year-old knuckleballer will be utilized out of the bullpen and in a long relief role as needed. He was scratched from a Sunday start at Triple-A as a precaution for a potential DL trip for Hanrahan. This is his first appearance on a Major League roster.
Starting pitcher John Lackey is on the 15-day disabled list with a right biceps strain. The Red Sox are hoping for his return next week. Relievers Craig Breslow (shoulder) and Franklin Morales (back) are also on the DL. Both are expected to throw in the coming days.
Dustin Pedroia enjoyed the sight of Indians’ pitching last season. The Red Sox second baseman had 14 hits in 31 at bats (.441) and scored nine runs. He punished Ubaldo Jimenez with three singles and a double in four at bats, drove in three runs, and scored a pair. He is batting .294 on the young season.
Rookie left fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has struggled through his first ten Major League games. He is batting .097 and has just three hits in his first 31 at bats.
Cleveland (5-6) took two of three in a big series against the slumping Chicago White Sox.
Friday night, Justin Masterson and the Indians stole a 1-0 walkoff win. Cleveland, limited to just one hit throughout the night, got a one-out double from Michael Bourn in the bottom of the ninth. A groundout by Asdrubal Cabrera advanced Bourn to third. After what became an intentional walk to Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher delivered with a two-out walkoff single down the right field line, scoring Bourn and giving Masterson a well-deserved win. He earned the complete game shutout, limiting the White Sox to five hits while striking out seven.
The Indians’ bats woke up for Saturday’s ballgame against Chicago’s Chris Sale. They scored eight earned runs off of the White Sox starter, exceeding his former career worst of five, on their way to a 9-4 victory. After two first inning unearned runs, Zach McAllister settled in and provided the Indians with a quality start, lasting six and one-third innings. He struck out six and gave up three runs on five hits. The Indians offense looked alive, as Swisher hit a first inning two-run home run, Mark Reynolds slugged his fifth home run of the year, a grand slam in the fifth, and Yan Gomes added a two-run shot later in the inning.
Cleveland lost the series finale, despite the best efforts of Brett Myers, by a 3-1 result. Bourn delivered Cleveland’s lone run on the first pitch the Indians saw at the plate. Myers (0-2, 8.82) worked six solid innings and made just one mistake, a two-run home run by Paul Konerko that proved to be the difference in the game. Alejandro De Aza added a solo shot off of Vinnie Pestano in the eighth. Jake Peavy limited the Indians to just five hits while striking out eleven batters.
The Indians have now won two of their four series this season. They enter play on Tuesday night in third place in the AL Central, a game and a half behind Detroit and Kansas City.
Bourn was injured in the eighth inning of the 3-1 Sunday loss while sliding head first into first base, successfully beating out an infield single. He suffered a lacerated right hand that required five stitches after he was stepped on by White Sox reliever Matt Thornton. He is expected to miss the entire Boston series and as many as five to seven days while waiting for the stitches to be removed.
Kipnis missed games on Saturday and Sunday with a sore right elbow. He missed time in Spring Training with a sore left elbow. He was again absent from the lineup heading into Tuesday’s game.
Catcher Lou Marson remains on the 15-day disabled list recovering from his cervical strain. He is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment in Columbus Tuesday night.
Starter Scott Kazmir, on the disabled list with a strained right rib cage, pitched a rehab start on Monday night at Columbus. He lasted five innings and allowed one unearned run in his final inning of work. He struck out five and appeared primed to come off of the disabled list in time for his next time around in the rotation.
Reliever Matt Albers was transferred to the Family Medical Emergency List Monday morning. He had been on the Paternity List over the weekend.
Swisher excelled in extensive action against the Red Sox last year. He batted .459 on the season (28 hits in 61 at bats) and had a .558 on-base percentage (including 14 walks) with five home runs and 15 runs batted in. He had three doubles in five at bats against Alfredo Aceves and a pair of doubles among five hits in ten at bats against Lester.
Carlos Santana returned to the lineup and drew a walk in the ninth inning of Sunday’s loss while trying to return from a left thumb injury. He has not fared well against the Red Sox throughout his career (.196 batting average; one home run), but did have four hits in eleven at bats against them at Progressive Field last season. He is batting a team-best .500 this month.
Despite his slow start, Kipnis may be excited to see a Red Sox jersey on the mound. He owns a career batting average of .394 with four home runs, both representing his highest output versus any one team. All eight of his games against Boston have been at Fenway Park. He has been a slow starter in April in his career, posting a .218 batting average in the month. He enters play on Tuesday with a .125 average on the season.
The Indians hold an all-time record of 1,024-963 (.515) over the Red Sox. They hold an advantage in Cleveland of 550-442. Boston got the better of the team in 2012, winning five of their eight matchups while outscoring the Indians by 20 runs.
Boston’s Felix Doubront (0-0, 5.40) will take the hill for the Red Sox on Tuesday in his second start of the season. He was scheduled to start Friday’s cancelled game against the Rays. Jimenez (0-1, 6.97) will make his first start in a week for Cleveland. He was hit hard in his last outing, an 11-6 loss to the Yankees in the Indians’ home opener. He was moved back several days in the rotation due to postponed games and the desire to work out a mechanical flaw in his delivery.
Former reliever Aceves (0-0, 6.75) will start for Boston on Wednesday. He made his first start of the season on Thursday and allowed two runs in five innings. He had allowed five runs in two relief appearances to start the year. Masterson (3-0, 0.41) will get the ball for the Indians. He will be looking to win his first four starts to the season and is coming off of a complete game 1-0 shutout of the White Sox on Friday night.
Lester (2-0, 1.42) will start Thursday’s finale against McAllister (1-1, 2.19). Lester limited Indians batters to a .150 batting average against him last season. He has struck out 18 batters in his first 19 innings this year. McAllister looked sharp in his last outing, allowing just one earned run in six-plus innings against Chicago. He is 1-1 in two career starts against Boston.
All three games in the series are scheduled for 7:05 PM ET starts from Progressive Field. Games will be televised on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and NESN. Radio broadcasts of all three games can be heard on the Cleveland Indians radio network and New England’s regional sports network, WEEI 93.7 FM.
After the series, the Red Sox will return home for ten straight games to conclude a string of 19 consecutive games, beginning with three against Kansas City. The Indians will return to the road for ten games in eleven days, starting with a three-game weekend series in Houston against the Astros. The Red Sox and Indians will finish their season series with a four-game set in Boston beginning May 23rd.
Photo: Chuck Crow / Cleveland Plain Dealer