Napoli's decisive homer lifts Indians past Red Sox
By Jordan Bastian and Ian Browne
MLB.com |@IanMBrowne |
CLEVELAND -- If the Indians reach the postseason, their path will likely need to be paved by strong pitching and stellar defense. And they certainly won't mind if the offense also pulls its weight, as was the case in Wednesday's 7-6 victory over the Red Sox at Progressive Field.
Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli delivered towering home runs at critical points, helping power the Tribe to its first win of 2016. Santana launched a three-run shot off Clay Buchholz to cap a four-run outburst in the first inning and Napoli crushed a pitch from Junichi Tazawa to put Cleveland ahead for good in the seventh.
"It's a really good win," Napoli said. "They make the comeback, take the lead, and we were able to scrap away that run to tie the game and you know, ultimately I hit that homer to take the lead. So, great team win overall."
"Yeah, I was trying to bounce it," Tazawa said. "I was able to get a swing-and-miss at previous pitches. That was the directions I got in the bullpen, but I mislocated it."
Napoli's first shot for the Indians -- against his former team -- helped overshadow a strong night from Boston's lineup as well. Slugger David Ortiz homered for the second straight game, as part of a back-to-back showing with Hanley Ramirez in a four-run sixth. Brock Holt also belted a homer in the loss.
"We dig ourselves a little bit of a hole, but I'll tell you, the way we battled back, the way we swung the bat was outstanding here tonight," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Buchholz and Indians starter Carlos Carrasco turned in underwhelming debuts. The Red Sox righty exited after four-plus innings, in which he allowed five runs on six hits. Carrasco lasted five-plus for the Tribe, but gave up four runs on seven hits, including the trio of long balls.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The heart of it all: The Indians signed Napoli to serve as the new cleanup man, helping to take some pressure off Santana. On Wednesday, the new-look middle delivered. In the first inning, Santana drilled a 3-1 pitch 418 feet, according to Statcast™, to deep center for a three-run homer. Once he was back in the dugout, cameras caught Santana doing a celebratory dance after his first shot of the season. In the seventh, Napoli followed suit with a 423-foot blast to the left-field bleachers to put the Indians ahead, 7-6. More >
"The idea is to have everybody be dangerous," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Nap certainly has a pretty good feel for the strike zone, too. If a guy is getting on base in front of Carlos, that switch-hitter sandwiched in-between some of the righties, yeah, I think that'd be great."
Ortiz, Hanley go back-to-back: Ortiz and Ramirez smashed back-to-back homers to open the sixth, and the Red Sox were right back in it at 5-4. This, after trailing, 4-0, and 5-2. Ortiz's towering shot to right-center traveled 398 feet, according to Statcast™. Ramirez followed with an opposite-field homer to right. The consecutive shots led Francona to lift Carrasco.
"We've got a good lineup. I told you guys early that we're going to hit," Ortiz said. "We've got young, talented players who have a good idea about what they're doing at the plate, so we're gonna hit."
Defensive missteps: Cleveland made a few costly plays in the field within Boston's four-run rally in the sixth. It started when Chris Young lofted a pitch to left-center, where outfielders Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin lost sight of the ball, allowing it to drop in for what was ruled a double. Later in the inning, Juan Uribe did not look Holt back to third base on a grounder, allowing the runner to easily score on a throw to first base.
"It was rainy and windy at that moment," Naquin said. "I even asked Jose. He said, 'Me no see.' I said, 'Me neither, bud.' We saw it probably four feet above our heads. By that time, it was too late."
Holt in middle of everything: Holt started the game in left field, then moved to third base before eventually returning to left. In between, he had two hits, including a two-run homer in the second, and a heads-up baserunning play to score the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth. Holt hit just two homers in 2015 and has seven in his career. This one sliced Cleveland's 4-0 lead in half. More >
Naquin's milestone: In the second inning, Naquin engaged in a nine-pitch battle with Buchholz. The rookie center fielder fouled off four within the sequence and ended the long at-bat by pulling a pitch into right field for a base hit. That marked the first hit of Naquin's Major League career.
"Honestly, I didn't even really feel myself touch first base," Naquin said. "I got to first and Hanley said something to me, 'Congrats.' I got to second and [Dustin] Pedroia and [Xander] Bogaerts [said something, too]. Those are pretty classy dudes. They have some good guys over there. It's greatly appreciated from my standpoint. It's just a great feeling, a very exciting moment for myself and my family."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Ortiz's home run was his second in as many games, putting him alongside Ted Williams as the only 40-and-over players in Major League history to homer in each of his first two games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It also marked Big Papi's 505th career blast, moving him past Hall of Famer Eddie Murray for 26th on the all-time list. More >
"I don't want to hear about that. That's not going to make me feel any younger." -- Ortiz, on sharing a slice of history with Williams
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Right-hander Joe Kelly tries to build off his strong finish to last season, entering 2016 as the No. 3 starter, as he starts the finale of this three-game series against the Indians on Thursday at 6:10 p.m. ET. Kelly went 8-0 with a 2.59 ERA in a nine-start run between Aug. 1-Sept. 9 of last year.
Indians: Following a brief stint with Triple-A Columbus at the start of last season, righty Danny Salazar joined the Indians and had a breakout showing. The hard-throwing righty struck out 195, won 14 games and had a 3.45 ERA in 30 starts. Now the No. 3 starter, Salazar will take the ball in the series finale against Boston on Thursday at 6:10 p.m. ET.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.