Knowing the inevitable attention that would come with his return to Fenway Park as manager of the Cleveland Indians, Terry Francona wanted to be careful not to let the spotlight burn to brightly.
The Indians came in as hot as any team in baseball over the past month. Francona was feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Coming back to face the team he led to two World Series titles would be emotional, obviously, but those feelings couldn’t supercede the game.
At the end of the night, the Indians ran away with a 12-3 win, but for a moment after the first inning the Red Sox honored Francona and the handful of Sox-turned-Indians with a video tribute that allowed Francona to soak in a warm reception from the crowd as well as his former players.
“I tried really hard as we talked before the game that I didn’t want to make it harder on our players,” Francona said. I thought that was unfair. I tried to keep my emotions inside. When they did that thing after the first inning I was honored, and I was also thrilled that they showed Cashie [bullpen coach Kevin Cash], Mike Aviles, Matt [Albers], Rich Hill and then Millsie [third base coach Brad Mills] standing next to me, who is maybe my best friend in life. So, to share that was pretty awesome.”
Across the field, John Farrell watched. He, too, is close friends with Francona.
“That video probably could have gone on for quite a while longer,” Farrell said. “Obviously he’s in a good place right now.”
Francona was showered with an ovation. The Sox expected nothing less.
“He’s one of the best managers that every managed the Red Sox,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “He brought a couple World Series titles and I don’t think the people are going to forget that. He’s well respected and he earned and deserved every bit of it.”
Some other quick notes:
• Over his last three starts, Ryan Dempster has thrown 312 pitches. In three innings, he gave four runs on five hits and four walks, but more alarming, he threw 85 pitches.
After putting up a 2.93 ERA in his first seven starts, the number over his past three outings is a bloated 10.66
• David Ortiz’s breakdown of his three-run homer was short but sweet.
“Fastball in,” he said. “Fastball out.”
He blasted a first-pitch fastball from Zach McAllister over the Indians bullpen to give the Sox their only runs of the night.
In the past week, he’s hitting .429 with three homers and 12 RBIs.
• Jacoby Ellsbury’s bunt single in the third was his first since 2009, when he had eight bunt singles.
In the end, he was thrown out at home, trying to score from second on a Dustin Pedroia single up the middle. He got the green light from third base coach Brian Butterfield.
“He was waved home,” Farrell said. “In a situation, with David coming up, you can debate whether that was over-agressive, but Jake’s our fastest baserunner. Based on putting pressure on Bourn to throw a strike for 200 feet away, he did. So I’ve got no problem with the aggressiveness on our part and the decision to made by Butter.”
• After throwing out two runners Wednesday night against the White Sox, Jarrod Saltalamacchia nearly cut down Mike Aviles in the fifth inning. His throw got to second in time, but shortstop Stephen Drew couldn’t handle it cleanly.
Baserunners had been 19 for 20 against Saltalamacchi before Wednesday.
Saltalamacchia also extended his on-base streak to a career-high 13 games with a walk in the second.