CLEVELAND (AP) — Asdrubal Cabrera had four RBIs, Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run homer and the Cleveland Indians kept the built-to-win Boston Red Sox winless on Wednesday night with an 8-4 victory that dropped one of baseball’s big spenders to 0-5.
From Cambridge to Cape Cod, the panic buttons are glowing. The Red Sox are off to their worst start in 15 years and look nothing like the team many forecast to be the last one standing in October. Boston hasn’t started this poorly since 1996, and after finishing this series Thursday, the Sox head home to face the rival New York Yankees on Friday and what could be angry fans in Fenway Park.
Reliever Rafael Perez (1-0) worked 1 1-3 perfect innings for the Indians, who have won three straight.
Cabrera hit a three-run homer off reliever Dan Wheeler to cap a strange sixth inning, when mistakes on the mound and in the field cost the Red Sox four runs.
Matt LaPorta also homered for Cleveland.
In the sixth, Boston relievers Dennys Reyes, on for Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-1), hit the first two batters and walked the third, forcing manager Terry Francona to make another switch. Wheeler got Michael Brantley to line to third, where Kevin Youkilis dropped the ball.
Youkilis quickly recovered, stepped on the bag and threw home. Veteran catcher Jason Varitek, assuming a force was still in effect, caught the ball with his foot on the plate. However, because Youkilis had already gotten one out, Varitek had to tag the runner, but Travis Buck scored without being touched.
The play underscored Boston’s many struggles so far, and Cabrera made things worse by belting his first homer to right, putting Cleveland ahead 7-2.
The Red Sox are batting just .190, and have a team ERA of 8.33 — hardly championship-caliber numbers.
Before the game, Francona said he makes a point of not watching TV while his team is scuffling, so he didn’t see the graphic showing that no team starting 0-4 has won the World Series. Despite the unexpectedly poor start, he’s not panicking.
“We’ve got 158 games left, so I don’t think we’re going to pack it in,” he said, rocking in his office chair. “It means that we’ve had four bad first days of the year.”
Make it five.
The Red Sox spent millions during the winter, bolstering an already loaded lineup with All-Stars Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Crawford got two hits with two steals, finally delivering something for the seven-year, $142 million investment the Red Sox made on him in December.
Gonzalez, the only Boston player batting over .300, hit a two-run homer in the seventh to pull the Red Sox within 7-4. LaPorta’s shot in the eighth made it 8-4. Cleveland starter Mitch Talbot struck out seven and held the Red Sox to two runs and five hits in 4 1-3 innings. Manager Manny Acta didn’t take any chances when the right-hander got into trouble the fifth, pulling him with one out and runners at the corners.
Chad Durbin came in and struck out Youkilis before Acta brought in Perez, a left-hander, who retired David Ortiz on a routine grounder.
Cleveland’s best hitter last season, Choo came to the plate in the first batting .063 and in an 0-for-13 slump. He busted out by driving a 1-0 pitch from Matsuzaka over the wall in right-center, scoring Brantley, who led off with a single, to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
The Red Sox tied it in the second, getting the RBIs on balls that never left the infield.
NOTES: Only the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals made the World Series after starting 0-4. Since 1995, only two of 128 playoff teams started 0-4, Cincinnati (1995) and Arizona (1999). … the Red Sox have been out-homered 14-4. … The Indians drew a major league-low 1.3 million fans last season, and they’re off to a bad start in 2011 with fewer than 10,000 at four of five games. Acta believes winning will cure the attendance issue. “The fan base is there,” he said. “I see it everywhere I walk. I see people wearing Cleveland paraphernalia. Do I want to see it packed every day? Of course I want to, but that’s something I can’t control. If you win, they’ll come. My job is to try to make these guys as good as possible as soon as possible so we can bring people to the stadium.”
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