CLEVELAND — From his vantage point across the field, Terry Francona must have watched the Red Sox this week and been reminded of teams he once managed in Boston.
These Red Sox have strong starting pitching, an effective bullpen, and a balanced offense. They even run the bases and play defense well.
Toss in a happy clubhouse and you have a team that beat Francona’s Indians, 6-3, Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep at Progressive Field.
“They did pretty much what they wanted to,” Francona said.
The 11-4 Sox have won six straight and return to Fenway Park Friday night for what is sure to be an emotional homecoming.
If a season of good baseball can help a shattered city smile again, this team looks capable of providing it.
“It’s going to be great. Go back there and get in front of those fans,” said Jon Lester, who allowed two runs over seven innings to improve to 3-0. “Maybe for a couple of hours, get back to being Boston and watching a baseball game and having a good time and not thinking about all the other things.”
Mike Napoli was 2 for 5 with a triple, an RBI, and two runs. He has hit safely in seven consecutive games at 11 of 31 with six extra-base hits and 10 RBIs. Napoli has 17 RBIs in 16 games.
Jacoby Ellsbury, one of several players who have bounced back from a poor 2012 season, had two hits to extend his hitting streak to eight games, and scored two runs. Daniel Nava added two RBIs.
The six-game win streak matched the longest the Red Sox had all of last season.
“It’s fun to watch,” Lester said of the offense. “Guys take the extra base, they’re aggressive but also under control. The at-bats guys are putting together, just fouling off pitches and grinding them out.
“You can’t put your finger on one thing. Everybody’s doing what they need to do. We’re playing good baseball right now.”
The wind helped the Red Sox take a 1-0 lead on Indians starter Zach McAllister (1-2) in the second inning.
Napoli led off with what appeared to be a routine fly ball to right field. But a steady breeze blowing left to right carried the ball to the base of the wall, and Ryan Raburn misplayed it into a triple.
Napoli turned second like he was towing a U-Haul trailer but made his way to third base safely.
“I played the elements,” Napoli said. “The wind was blowing out that way, so hit a fly ball that way.”
Nava singled into right field to drive in the run.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia gave the Sox a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning with a line-drive home run to right field. He has three on the season.
“It’s good to have that lefthanded power,” manager John Farrell said.
It was an excellent at-bat for Saltalamacchia, who worked the count to 3 and 2 by taking a breaking ball that was just off the outside corner. He then ripped a fastball that was left over the plate.
“The whole at-bat I was ready for a heater,” Saltalamacchia said. “Just trying to fight the other stuff off and I was able to get on top of it.”
Ellsbury doubled with one out in the fifth inning and scored on singles by Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia.
The Sox tacked on three runs in the seventh inning, taking advantage of an error with some aggressive base running.
Ellsbury singled off Nick Hagadone. Reliever Bryan Shaw got Victorino to ground to the right side. But second baseman Cord Phelps bobbled the ball for an error.
Ellsbury tagged up and went to third when Pedroia flied out to deep right field. Napoli followed with an RBI single to right.
Victorino went to third on the play and scored on Nava’s sacrifice fly to center field. An alert Napoli tagged up and took second on the throw to the plate.
That enabled Napoli to score on a single by pinch hitter Mike Carp.
“We’re going to be aggressive on the bases,” Napoli said. “We’re not going to be crazy or try to run into outs.”
Napoli took second initially hoping to distract the Indians from throwing Victorino out at the plate. But his hustle led to another run.
“When we were in spring training, it was an issue. We’re going to put pressure on the defense and we’re going to run the bases smart,” Napoli said.
Lester was done after seven innings and 115 pitches. He allowed two runs on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. It speaks to how good his first three starts were that such a performance raised his earned run average from 1.42 to 1.73.
Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, and Andrew Bailey finished off the Indians.
It was the second save for Bailey, who has allowed one run over 7⅓ innings and struck out 12.
Red Sox starters have yet to allow more than three earned runs in a game. It’s the longest streak to start a season since the 1981 Oakland Athletics went 16 games.Continued...