CLEVELAND -- No arguing that Red Sox hearts were in the right place Tuesday night in Cleveland, where players hung a uniform jersey that read “Boston Strong 617”, referencing Boston's area code, on the back.
And in their first game since Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, the Sox produced the desired outcome: a 7-2 victory over the Indians that gave them their fourth straight win.
Where they might have come up a bit short was in providing an entertaining diversion to Monday’s tragic events, which is something numerous players had said they hoped they could do, in their view one small way of easing a region’s pain.
It might have been diverting, but it was hardly entertaining. According to Elias, it was the first nine-inning game in modern baseball history (since 1900) in which the teams combined for 25 or more strikeouts and 15 or more walks. Sox batters struck out 16 times while drawing nine walks, the first time they’d had so many whiffs and walks in a game since at least 1916, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The teams wore black armbands and lined up on the baselines for a moment of silence before the game, which was played with the flag flying at half-staff.
The Sox scored all of their runs in the second inning, which featured five walks by wayward Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez and two doubles by Mike Napoli, who began the inning with a double and scored, then knocked in three with a bases-loaded double off Indians reliever Cody Allen.
Red Sox starter Felix Doubront staggered through five innings -- four hits, four walks, 104 pitches -- to make his first win of the season a tougher task than it needed to be. Clayton Mortensen and Alex Wilson pitched two scoreless innings apiece to finish off the Tribe.
The game was the first the Sox have played against former manager Terry Francona, a storyline that was considerably more attractive before Monday’s tragic events robbed it of its light-heartedness.
Pedroia, who walked and singled, kept alive his streak of reaching base in all 13 games the Sox have played this season, the only Boston player to do so.
On the other side of the ledger, Daniel Nava was the team’s ultimate whiffer Tuesday night, striking out all four times he went to the plate. He was spared a fifth whiff when manager John Farrell hit for him in the ninth; his replacement, pinch hitter Mike Carp, struck out on three pitches.
Nava salvaged some dignity with a nice sliding catch to take a hit away from Michael Brantley in the fourth.
Doubront assured himself of an abbreviated night when he struggled in the fifth, as he walked two and gave up two singles, but he left the bases loaded when he induced Mark Reynolds to pop out to Pedroia to end the inning with a yield of one run. The run scored on a passed ball charged to David Ross.
Although he went just five innings, Doubront kept alive the streak by Sox starters of giving up three runs or fewer in all 13 games this season. Alfredo Aceves will attempt to extend that streak Wednesday night.
The Sox played without shortstop Stephen Drew, whose absence was a scheduled night off, according to Farrell, and minus Jackie Bradley Jr., who is hitless in his past 20 at-bats and batting .097 overall. Bradley made a ninth-inning appearance as a defensive replacement.