Indians-Red Sox Preview
Indians manager Terry Francona is bracing for a lump in his throat and maybe a tear or two.
He's going back to Boston.
For the first time as an opposing manager since leaving Boston, Francona will walk into famed Fenway Park to face the Red Sox, the team he led to two World Series titles during eight seasons.
Francona, who was let go after the Red Sox collapsed in 2011, said he hasn't given much thought to his homecoming, but he's certain it will conjure up some memories.
"I'm sure I'll have a lot of emotions," he said Wednesday before his AL Central-leading Indians lost 11-7 to Detroit. "The one thing I want to remind myself - and I have - is that this game is tough enough to play and I don't want our guys having extra baggage during that series. I need to be very cognizant of that, that whatever feelings I'm having, I'll deal with 'em.
"It's hard enough to play this game."
Francona returned to Fenway in 2012 when he was working for ESPN. But this time will be different because he'll be wearing a uniform, and the 53-year-old made it clear that although he'll forever be remembered for what he helped the Red Sox accomplish, he's Cleveland's manager.
"I'm proud to go back there as an Indian," he said. "I don't want that to ever get lost in the shuffle."
Francona said he hasn't considered what kind of reaction he may get from Red Sox fans, who welcomed him warmly when he took part in Fenway's 100th anniversary ceremony last year.
"I don't really think about stuff like that," he said. "I never really spent much time. Just not part of what I'm hopefully about."
With Francona as their manager, the Red Sox ended an 86-year drought by winning the World Series in 2004 and then won it again in 2007.
Indians pitcher Justin Masterson, who played parts of two seasons for Francona in Boston, hopes Red Sox fans show him deserved love.
"I think fans should be cheering, overjoyed and excited simply because the season maybe didn't end well in his last year, but I mean he put Boston on the map," Masterson said. "He revitalized the city by bringing Red Sox Nation back because it hadn't really been much before he got there and it helped, along with many other people, to put them back on the map."
Masterson has seen Francona's emotional side, and he expects his manager to be moved by the experience.
"I don't think he will let anyone see if it is emotional for him, but I think the caring individual that he is, there's always going to be a soft spot in his heart for Boston and for Fenway Park and for everything that took place there - and rightfully so," Masterson said. "So there will be some joy there, which is why whether or not he gets a good reception, he should because he deserves it."
While Masterson's seven wins have helped Francona begin his Indians tenure impressively, no member of the rotation has a lower ERA than scheduled Thursday starter Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.65 ERA). Cleveland has won each of McAllister's last four starts as he's gone 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA.
One of the right-hander's worst performances came against Boston on April 18 as he yielded three runs, six hits and three walks over five innings in a 6-3 defeat. He fell to 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA in three career starts versus the Red Sox.
McAllister will be opposed by a stumbling Ryan Dempster (2-4, 4.27). He's 0-2 in his past three starts, getting tagged for 15 runs in 16 2-3 innings. Six days after serving up a career high-tying three homers in a 12-4 loss to Toronto, Dempster had a season-high six walks in a season-low 4 2-3 innings of a 12-5 win at Minnesota on Saturday.
The good news for Dempster is he's 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four lifetime starts against Cleveland, including two victories in as many tries last year while with Texas.
Dempster didn't pitch when Boston swept a three-game set in Cleveland from April 16-18. The Red Sox have won eight of 10 over the Indians and have not lost a series to them at Fenway since 2006.
Boston (28-19) is coming off a 6-3 road trip on which David Ortiz drove in 14 runs, including two in a 6-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.
Shane Victorino missed a second straight game due to a tight hamstring, and his status is unclear.
Cleveland (26-19) enters after being swept in two games by the Tigers following a five-game win streak. The Indians, winners in 18 of 25, have not lost three straight this month.
Michael Brantley is 7 for 16 with nine RBIs in the last four games.