Cleveland’s bats came alive in a big way Thursday night as the Indians (18-13) shelled Josh Beckett and the Red Sox for a 8-3 victory to kick off a four-game set in Boston.
The scoring started in the top of the second. Shin-Soo Choo earned a one-out walk, then moved to third on Michael Brantley‘s double and scored on Casey Kotchman‘s sacrifice fly. Jack Hannahan capped the rally with a two-run homer to put the Tribe up, 3-0.
Boston struck back for a run in the bottom of the inning—Adrian Gonzalez led off with a double and came around to score on Mike Aviles‘ RBI single—but the Tribe’s bats really got going in the third. Jason Kipnis led off with a solo home run. Asdrubal Cabrera walked and Travis Hafner singled to set the table for Choo to drive in Cabrera with an RBI double. Hafner and Choo both came home four pitches later as Brantley’s two-run double gave the Indians a 7-1 lead and knocked Beckett out of the game to a loud chorus of boos at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox nibbled away at the deficit but were unable to work their way back. Boston added a run on Daniel Nava‘s RBI double in the fifth and Dustin Pedroia took Tony Sipp deep on his second pitch of the game in the seventh, but despite threatening in the eighth—the Sox loaded the bases, brought the tying run to the plate, and made Vinnie Pestano throw 41 pitches—that was all the scoring they could muster.
The Indians added an insurance run in the ninth—Kipnis led off with a single, moved over on Cabrera’s hit-by-pitch and Alfredo Aceves‘ wild pitch, and scored on Carlos Santana’s sacrifice fly—but it didn’t matter as Cleveland cruised to a commanding 8-3 victory.
The Good: The Indians absolutely destroyed Josh Beckett, lighting the onetime ace up for seven runs (all earned) on seven hits and working two walks in 2.1 innings—he was off his game and the Tribe made him pay. Besides the offense’s ability to capitalize on Beckett’s struggles, that they were able to knock him out less than a third of the way through the game and force Boston’s bullpen to throw almost seven innings will pay dividends for the rest of the weekend.
We also saw yet another quality start from Derek Lowe—he allowed nine hits and got only three strikeouts, but he held the mighty Red Sox lineup to just two runs in six strong innings. Also, Nick Hagadone looked terrific out of the bullpen, and Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano both came up with big outs late in the game.
The Bad: Tony Sipp continues to be unreliable out of the bullpen. He served up a home run to Dustin Pedroia in his first matchup of the game, and while it’s not quite clear why Manny Acta didn’t let him finish out the seventh, the fact remains that is shakiness on the mound made Acta use another reliever. He’s thrown only 9.2 innings this year and the DIPS estimators like him (he entered the game with a sterling 3.28 SIERA), but he has a brutal 8.38 ERA and he’s generally seemed quite hittable.
Interestingly, despite the Tribe’s overall offensive outburst, neither Travis Hafner nor Carlos Santana had very good games—Cleveland’s two mightiest hitters combined to go 0-for-8 with a walk and a sacrifice fly.
The “Huh?”: I know we’ve harped on this before, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer each day that Johnny Damon should not be the Indians’ starting left fielder and he definitely should not be hitting leadoff. He’s now hitting .171/.194/.257 for Cleveland—believe it or not, his average actually improved with his 1-for-5 performance Thursday—while No. 6 hitter Shin-Soo Choo is at .239/.369/.337. It’s a small sample size and Choo isn’t having his best season, but even without looking at 2012 numbers it’s apparent that Choo is better than Damon at…well, everything.
Interesting Tidbit: Thursday marked just the second time in Derek Lowe’s storied 16-year career that he had ever faced the Red Sox. He’s made at least six appearances against each of the other 29 MLB teams, including 20 or more outings against 19 teams. The Indians are the first AL team he’s ever played for besides the Red Sox, so the only other chance he could have had to face Boston was interleague play.