Boston finds fans, success vs. Tribe
CLEVELAND — It was tough to tell where you were watching the Indians and Red Sox on Monday night.
The sign said Jacobs Field, but the fans inside the park appeared split, some of the 32,439 in attendance favoring the hometown Indians and some the Red Sox and pitcher Jon Lester, who was making his first appearance since a bout with cancer.
The visitors went home happy.
With Lester pitching six strong innings and his offense backing him with an early assault on Indians starter Jake Westbrook, Boston took the first game of its only series of the season in Cleveland, 6-2.
The Indians, who entered the game trailing first-place Detroit by a game in the Central Division standings, lost for the fourth time in eight games, while Boston won its fourth straight.
Westbrook, who has not won since leaving the disabled list on June 24 and owns just one victory all season (April 27 against Baltimore), struggled again, allowing five runs — all within the first two innings — on 10 hits through six innings.
He allowed the first five batters he faced to reach base on hits in a four-run opening inning for Boston that left his team playing catch up from the start.
“I can’t really put a finger on it,” said a frustrated Westbrook of his struggles. “I’ve felt good, just things haven’t been going my way.
“Right now I’m not doing my job. It’s up to me to figure it out and do better.”
Westbrook spent a month on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle, but said it hasn’t been a factor as of late.
“There are zero excuses for me right now,” he said. “It’s time to start getting the job done.”
Indians manager Eric Wedge was asked if he was worried about Westbrook, who signed a three-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this season.
“Concerned?” Wedge said. “I believe in Jake. I think he’s going to come around. He just does too many things right not to work through this. You keep looking for him to put it all together.”
Ex-Indians Coco Crisp and Manny Ramirez played a large part in Boston’s early uprising. Ramirez scored two with a double to left in the first, while Crisp had runs and hits in both of the first two innings.
The two combined to go 6-for-9, with Crisp collecting hits in four of his five trips to the plate, three off Westbrook, whom he is 6-for-8 against in his career.
Since leaving Cleveland following the 2000 season, Ramirez is batting .349 (61-for-175) with 13 homers and 40 RBIs against his former team.
Westbrook straightened things out after the second, allowing just four more hits the rest of the way, but the Indians’ offense did little to pick him up.
Much of the cause was Lester, who didn’t resemble a pitcher making his first start of the season and first appearance since August of last year.
The left-hander allowed two runs on five hits, striking out six and walking three. Both of the runs came on a two-run home run from Grady Sizemore that made it 5-2 in the third inning.
“He’s the same guy, no different,” said Indians catcher Kelly Shoppach, who caught Lester in spring training as a member of the Red Sox before being traded to Cleveland in the Coco Crisp deal. “Obviously if you hold this offense to two runs, you’ve done something.”
The Indians had their opportunities against the 23-year-old.
After Sizemore’s homer tightened the gap in the third, Casey Blake drew a two-out walk, bringing Travis Hafner to the plate. Hafner, who went hitless in four at-bats, struck out to end the inning.
Cleveland’s best chance came in the following inning, when the Indians put the first two batters aboard on a double from Ryan Garko and a walk to Jhonny Peralta. Franklin Gutierrez struck out for the first out before Shoppach walked to load the bases and Josh Barfield grounded back to Lester, who threw home for the fielder’s choice out.
Lester struck out Sizemore to end the inning.
There was no comeback for the Indians, who lead the majors in the department. A trio of Boston relievers — Mike Timlin, Javier Lopez and Manny Delcarmen — allowed just a hit over the final three innings.
Boston reasserted its dominance on Cleveland’s home field, improving to 11-2 at Jacobs Field since 2002, while bringing a healthy bunch of fans to enjoy the moment.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” Shoppach said of the pro-Boston reaction from the crowd.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Boston at Cleveland
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Sabathia(13-4, 3.81 ERA) vs. Matsuzaka (11-7, 3.99)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Jake Westbrook (left) talks with Kelly Shoppach during the first inning in which the Bosox pounced on Westbrook for four runs. It was another frustrating night and another loss for the right-hander.