BOSTON -- Tito-palooza, indeed.
If first impressions mean anything, a sellout crowd of 35,254 at Fenway Park went home convinced that Terry Francona, the man who introduced the duck boat parade to Boston, will soon have city planners in Cleveland scrambling for a comparable celebration down Euclid Avenue.
Just as was the case in Boston when Francona arrived for the 2004 season, the Cleveland Indians are woefully out of practice when it comes to winning World Series. The last time it happened was 65 years ago, in 1948. The time before that? It was 1920. That’s it. Two. The same number Francona won in his first four seasons with the Red Sox.
If Tito pulls that off in Cleveland, and the pigeons in Public Square will soon have a new statue to call home.
Granted, it’s only May, and a year ago on this date, the Indians also were in first place, 3 1/2 games ahead of the field. That team went a Valentinian 21-49 slump from mid-July on, wound up with 94 losses, and fired its manager, Manny Acta.
So let’s not lose our heads just yet.
Still, the Sons of the Wahoo made Francona’s return as manager here a smashing success, scorching the Red Sox 12-3. The Indians handed Ryan Dempster his head after just three innings comprised of an excruciating 85 pitches, then piled on against the Boston bullpen, especially in a six-run sixth inning in which seven of the first eight Indians batters reached safely.
Dempster allowed as many baserunners (nine) as he recorded outs, allowing five hits and four walks. The Indians went single, walk, walk, single, walk in the third inning, when they scored three times to open a 4-0 lead. David Ortiz brought the Sox back with a three-run home run over the visitors’ bullpen in the bottom of the inning, but the Indians didn’t let up against Clayton Mortensen and Alex Wilson.
The Sox, meanwhile, paid dearly for every mistake. Shortstop Stephen Drew dropped a perfect throw from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a stolen base attempt by Mike Aviles, and Bourn singled him home.
Jacoby Ellsbury tried to score from second with no outs on Dustin Pedroia’s single, and was cut down at the plate. Ellsbury also came up a half-stride short in trying to flag down Stubbs’ triple over his head.