Tight-knit Red Sox win fifth in row
Their minds more at ease after two harrowing days, the Red Sox won again.
Converted closer Alfredo Aceves coasted through five innings, Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava drove in two runs apiece and the Red Sox, bonded by the tragedy in Boston, struck quickly against Justin Masterson and beat the Cleveland Indians 6-3 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight win.
After Boston’s bullpen closed the game with four perfect innings, there was music again in the clubhouse and players gobbled down their postgame meals while watching NBA and MLB games on TVs. Finally, the horrific images aren’t everywhere.
And in the middle of the room, the ”617 Boston Strong” jersey hung for all to see.
”A good all-around game,” manager John Farrell said. ”A very good game.”
Aceves (1-0), who began the season as a reliever after serving as Boston’s primary closer in 2012, took a shutout into the sixth before giving up three runs. Andrew Bailey, filling in for injured closer Joel Hanrahan, worked the ninth for his first save.
Napoli had an RBI single in the first when the Red Sox scored three off Masterson (3-1), who has already beaten two Cy Young Award winners this season and came in without allowing a run in 19 straight innings.
Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi homered for the Indians, who dropped their third in a row.
The Red Sox hung the gray ”617” jersey in their dugout, just as they did for Tuesday’s emotional series opener – one day after the deadly marathon bombings back home. The jersey, featuring Boston’s area code, has become a symbol of unity for the club, which will be back at Fenway Park on Friday to open a 10-game homestand.
Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Carp had three hits apiece as the Red Sox built Aceves a 5-0 lead.
Boston’s bullpen did its job, retiring all 12 Cleveland batters in a row with eight strikeouts. Junichi Tazawa struck out four in two innings, Koji Uehara worked a perfect eighth and Bailey had a 1-2-3 ninth.
”The two innings by Taz were probably the difference in the ballgame,” said Farrell, who couldn’t have asked for more from his relievers. ”Good stuff, a lot of strikes.”
The Indians weren’t at full speed. Center fielder Michael Bourn went on the disabled list and second baseman Jason Kipnis missed his fourth game in a row with a sore elbow.
Aceves coasted through four innings before Cleveland loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth. Asdrubal Cabrera then hit a liner to deep right that appeared as if it might clear Victorino’s head and the bases, but the former center fielder who signed as a free agent with Boston in December, ran it down and made the catch.
Cabrera ripped off his helmet and slammed it down with two hands in frustration.
Blanked for five innings, the Indians finally got to Aceves and chased him with three runs in the sixth.
Carlos Santana walked leading off and Swisher followed with his second homer, a shot into the bullpen in center. Giambi then hit his 430th career homer – his first hit since signing with the Indians – to bring Cleveland to 5-3. Mark Reynolds hit a double and Aceves was lifted for Tazawa, who got three outs to end the inning.
The Red Sox added an unearned run in the eighth to make it 6-3. Ellsbury led off with a single, moved up on a wild pitch and scored from second when reliever Joe Smith fielded Victorino’s bunt and threw wildly to first for an error.
The mood was much looser in Boston’s clubhouse before the game than on Tuesday, when players solemnly went about their business with the tragedy so fresh on their minds.
Several players sat on a large leather sectional couch in the middle of the room and watched news developments from Washington and Boston on a large-screen TV. Others stayed closer to their cubicles and spent the time leading up to pregame batting practice reading and talking.
A close group to begin with, the Red Sox have become even tighter since the bombings. After they arrived Monday from Boston, just hours after the explosions near the marathon finish line, Farrell said 22 players went out to an impromptu dinner together in downtown Cleveland.
”I don’t want to downplay the events that we just left in Boston, but I think what we’ve quickly come to see is a group that likes to be around one another,” Farrell said. ”Those are encouraging signs.”
Masterson came in riding his career-best scoreless streak, which came to an abrupt halt as the Red Sox scored three runs in their first at-bat.
Boston loaded the bases on opposite-field singles by Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia sandwiched around Masterson hitting Victorino with a pitch.
Napoli, who drove in three runs on Tuesday, hit a two-run single – also the other way – and the Red Sox went up 3-0 on Nava’s single.
Masterson was able to keep the damage to a minimum thanks to a nice barehanded play by Cabrera at shortstop, and first baseman Reynolds cut down Napoli at the plate.
Masterson pitched his way out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second to keep the Indians within three. It was the same story in the fourth, but Masterson struck out Napoli and retired Nava on a grounder with the bags full.
”It wasn’t as fun as the last three I pitched, but over a season when you have 30-plus starts you’re going to have some like this,” Masterson said. ”I kept it close as much as I could.”
Carp came in as the only Boston position player without a start in the first 13 games, and Farrell said he was ”looking forward to getting him some at-bats.”
Carp made the most of them. He doubled his first two times up and then hit an RBI triple in the fifth to make it 4-0. Nava’s RBI single put Boston up 5-0 in the sixth.
NOTES: At 42, Giambi is the third-oldest player to homer for Cleveland. Sam Rice (44) in 1934 and Dave Winfield (43) in 1995 were older. … Farrell would not commit to Hanrahan resuming his closer duties once he comes off the DL from a strained right hamstring. Hanrahan went on the disabled list Tuesday and can’t be activated until April 29. ”I don’t think we’re sitting here today ready to make that claim,” Farrell said. ”We’ve got to get through some things first, particularly how he responds with the hamstring.” … Red Sox DH David Ortiz (sore right Achilles) went 0 for 4 with a strikeout at Triple-A as he continues tuning up for his expected activation from the DL on Friday.