A powerful punch from Mike Napoli to the bleachers in the seventh inning knocked out his former Boston teammates as Cleveland held on for their first win of 2016 in a 7-6 victory by the Indians over the Red Sox on Wednesday night.
The threat of more inclement loomed over the contest at Progressive Field throughout the day and delayed the start of the game ten minutes. Despite occasional raindrops all game long, both clubs took advantage of a strong wind blowing out to center in an early home run derby and the last blast proved to be the final blow. Both teams’ pitching staffs struggled with the elements, leading to a total of nine walks and five home runs, and neither starting pitcher lasted deep enough into the game to factor in the decision.
With the score even at six in the seventh, the Sox stranded the go-ahead run at third base. With reliever Junichi Tazawa on the mound and one out, Napoli sent a shot to the bleachers in left center as Cleveland reclaimed a 7-6 lead. Bryan Shaw allowed a hit in an otherwise quiet eighth and Cody Allen earned his first save in the ninth, as the night’s left fielder, Jose Ramirez, snowconed a deep drive by David Ortiz before meeting the wall for the final out of the ballgame.
The Indians jumped on the board with some early fireworks in the first off of Boston’s Clay Buchholz, who may have reignited some concerns about the stability of the Red Sox starting rotation with a rough effort on the mound. Three batters in, Cleveland claimed a 1-0 lead as Jason Kipnis doubled home Ramirez, who had reached on a one-out single. A walk to Napoli was followed by a clout to the center field bullpen from designated hitter Carlos Santana, who is looking to avoid a cool April debut.
Tribe starter Carlos Carrasco had escaped trouble after a one-out ground rule double and walk in the first, but the daredevil act did not work in the second. A single past Juan Uribe at third by Travis Shaw put one on for Brock Holt, who deposited his first homer of the season into the seats in right to cut the Indians lead in half at 4-2.
Cleveland added another run in the second as a one-out single by Tyler Naquin was followed by a groundout to first by Francisco Lindor before Ramirez singled again to center, scoring Naquin from 180 feet away. Ramirez advanced to second and lost his helmet on the throw, but after a walk by Kipnis, Napoli grounded out to cut short the threat.
Both pitchers settled down in the third and fourth innings, but Buchholz got the hook in the fifth after a leadoff walk to Kipnis. He lasted four-plus innings, allowing five runs on six hits with four strikeouts and three walks on 94 pitches.
Carrasco would not last much longer, as the Red Sox erupted off of the Tribe’s second ace with a four-run frame of their own. Ortiz, in his penultimate game at Progressive Field, hit a majestic blast to right center to lead off the sixth. Hanley Ramirez duplicated his feat, cutting the Indians lead to 5-4 and spelling the end of the night for Carrasco. He left with five-plus innings to his credit and four runs, seven hits, one walk, and five strikeouts on his tab.
Ross Detwiler relieved and gave up a bloop double to left center to pinch-hitter Chris Young before walking a pair to load the bases. A sacrifice fly to center from Jackie Bradley Jr. knotted the game at five and brought manager Terry Francona back out of the dugout, calling upon right-hander Zach McAllister. He got Mookie Betts to send a one-out grounder to Uribe, who looked Holt back at third, looked to second, then threw to first as Holt broke for the plate and scored the go-ahead run. A lineout from Dustin Pedroia ended the inning with the Sox now on top, 6-5.
The two teams continued to trade blows and the bottom of the sixth was again the Tribe’s turn to plate a run. Yan Gomes walked and moved to third on a single to right by Marlon Byrd off of reliever Noe Ramirez. Uribe lifted a fly to center, deep enough to push across Gomes and the game was again even until Napoli gave his former Sox teammates a taste of what they had seen from him during his three years with the club.
Naquin’s single in the second was the first hit of his Major League career and came in his first professional start. When he came around to score that inning, it was his first MLB run scored. He struck out in his lone at bat on Tuesday after entering the game as a pinch-hitter late in the 6-2 loss in his Major League debut.
Napoli’s homer in the seventh was his first hit with Cleveland and the 205th homer of his eleven-year career.
After combining for 15 strikeouts and three walks in Tuesday’s chilly performance, Indians batters drew a much more respectable six walks to go with six strikeouts. Kipnis had a pair of free passes and was on base three times. Napoli, after three strikeouts and a walk in his Cleveland debut, was 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored and has now seen 47 pitches in eight plate appearances.
RETIREMENT TOUR DAY TWO
Ortiz may lead some to question why he would walk away from the game now. Through two games, he has a pair of homers, with Wednesday’s shot giving him 505 on his career. It moved him past Eddie Murray and into 26th place on the all-time list.
WANT TO TALK ATTENDANCE?
After a credited “sellout” crowd for Tuesday’s lighter-than-capacity viewing at Progressive Field, the game on Wednesday drew 10,298 fans. Windy and rainy conditions and general apathy by some may have led to the lighter numbers against a Red Sox crowd that traditionally draws well across the league.
WHY YOU NO REVIEW THAT?
Francona shared in the postgame press conference that a miscommunication led to him not challenging a caught stealing in the bottom of the eighth, when it appeared Rajai Davis may have beaten the tag of third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
THE CHIZ KID
Indians right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers on Thursday. That could change, as bad weather may be headed to the state capital when the Clippers are scheduled to open the minor league season. Akron opens their season on the road, while both Lynchburg and Lake County will host games on Thursday. He is first eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday.
A pair of right-handers, Danny Salazar and Joe Kelly, will take the ball for their respective clubs in Thursday’s series finale. It marks the only trip of the season to Cleveland for the Red Sox, who will take their noisy fans with them around the league this season as aficionados pay homage to the career of Big Papi.
A much cooler first pitch than Wednesday’s is slated for 6:10 PM ET.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer