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Francona's Red Sox reunion doesn't go as planned

Boston sweeps Cleveland as offense can't deliver in clutch spots

CLEVELAND -- Terry Francona's reunion with the Red Sox was hardly memorable as far as the Indians were concerned. In the manager's first meeting with his former team, Cleveland was swept away seemingly with ease by a red-hot Boston club.

On Thursday, the Tribe's offense remained cold and starter Zach McAllister struggled with efficiency, contributing to a 6-3 loss to the Red Sox in the finale of a three-game set at Progressive Field. Boston never trailed in the series, pushing Cleveland's losing streak to four games.

"I didn't enjoy the series much," Francona said. "But I'll never get tired of seeing people I care about."

Francona, who managed Boston from 2004-11 and led the team to a pair of World Series titles, was managing against the Red Sox for the first time since 2000, when he was at the helm of the Phillies. The manager said earlier this week that, while this was more than a typical matchup, he knew his trip to Fenway Park in May would likely stir up more emotions than this early-season series.

This series certainly did not go as Cleveland would have scripted, especially with a 10-game, 11-day trek through Houston, Chicago and Kansas City next on the schedule.

"They did pretty much what they wanted to with us this series," Francona said. "So now we need to go on the road and try to find ways to win games. Their starting pitching, if they pitch like that, they're going to give a lot of people trouble."

In the series finale, it was Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester who quieted the Indians' bats. Lester improved to 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA on the year with a solid seven-inning performance. The southpaw scattered four hits, allowed two runs and finished his showing with five strikeouts and one walk.

Both of Cleveland's runs against Lester came via groundouts -- first from Mike Aviles in the second and then from Drew Stubbs in the fifth. The Indians ended the night 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, lowering the team's showing to 7-for-47 (.149) with RISP over the past eight games and 2-for-19 in the three-game brooming at the hands of Boston.

"It was a tough one," Indians designated hitter Mark Reynolds said. "We just couldn't get the big hits when we needed them. We had guys on base all series -- we just couldn't come through. It's a little frustrating, but at the same time, we've got a long road trip ahead of us and we'll go out and try to win some games."

Over the course of the first homestand of the season, the Indians went 2-8 against the Yankees, White Sox and Red Sox. Cleveland resides in last place in the American League Central, but Reynolds said the Tribe's players are hardly worrying about that right now.

"What are we, 14 games in?" Reynolds said. "There's still a lot of baseball left. One five-game winning streak takes care of everything that we've been through this homestand. We're not pressing. We're not worried. We're not where we want to be, but we're all right."

Mike Napoli, who pestered the Tribe throughout the series, got things rolling for Boston with a leadoff triple against McAllister in the second. The fly ball carried to the wall and right fielder Ryan Raburn misplayed the carom, leading to an unlikely three-base hit. Daniel Nava followed with a single to right that pushed the Indians behind early, 1-0.

Off the bat, McAllister thought he had a fly out from Napoli.

"I didn't think that ball was going to go that far," McAllister said. "But he's a big strong hitter. Regardless of the winds or not, he can do some damage."

McAllister (1-2) took the loss after giving up three runs on six hits with seven strikeouts in five innings for the Indians (5-9), who have dropped nine of their past 12 games. Jarrod Saltalamacchia tagged McAllister for a solo home run in the fourth and Pedroia delivered a run-scoring single off the big right-hander in the fifth. McAllister escaped further damage, but his pitch count had climbed to 112.

"I threw way too many pitches," McAllister said.

Boston (11-4) came through with three runs in the seventh, which Jacoby Ellsbury started with a single off Nick Hagadone. Indians second baseman Cord Phelps -- filling in for an injured Jason Kipnis -- then bobbled a grounder by Shane Victorino for a costly error. That gaffe ignited a three-run push, which was capped by Mike Carp's RBI single off reliever Bryan Shaw.

In the eighth, the Indians tried to rally against Boston's bullpen. With two outs and runners on second and third base, Tribe catcher Carlos Santana pulled a pitch from Red Sox reliever Kohi Uehara deep to right field, where it dropped at the base of the wall for a run-scoring double. Uehara then struck out Nick Swisher to end the threat.

That is the way things went all series for the Tribe.

"When you're not on the scoreboard with regularity," Francona said, "you need a big two-out hit. We never got that."

And Francona did not get the kind of reunion he wanted.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
Read More: Cleveland Indians, Mike Aviles, Carlos Santana, Zach McAllister, Drew Stubbs