The red-hot Cleveland Indians made manager Terry Francona a winner in his return to Fenway Park. Now another former member of the Boston Red Sox will try to join in the fun as Justin Masterson takes aim at a fourth straight winning start on Friday night as the Tribe and Red Sox resume a four- game series.
Not only were the Indians looking to avenge a three-game sweep in Cleveland at the hands of the Red Sox back in mid-April, but Francona returned to town as an opposing manager for the first time since being let go following Boston's late-season collapse in 2011 that left the club out of the playoffs.
Francona won 744 games during his eight-year tenure with Boston and led the club to a pair of World Series titles. That wasn't forgotten as the Red Sox honored their former manager with a video tribute between the first and second innings.
"I appreciated it," Francona said. "It was very heart-felt, but again, you don't want to be the main focus. You want to let the players play. But, it felt good."
Cleveland's offense provided the icing on the cake, pounding out 16 hits en route to a 12-3 win.
Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs each had three hits and three RBI, while Michael Bourn and Yan Gomes knocked in two runs apiece. Carlos Santana drew a career- high four walks and scored three times as Cleveland blew the game open with a six-run sixth inning to win for the 19th time in its past 25 games.
The Indians led the AL Central by a half game over Detroit.
Cleveland starter Zach McAllister held the Red Sox to five hits in the win. The only blemish over his five-inning outing was a three-run homer by David Ortiz in the third inning.
Ryan Dempster lasted just three innings in the start for Boston. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks as the Red Sox lost for the third time in four games following a five-game winning streak.
Boston also lost for just the third time in its past 11 versus Cleveland.
"They've got a very good team," said Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the Indians. "They're in first place for a reason. They've got a very good lineup, they're balanced, they've got good pitching, a very good bullpen. They're not in first place by accident."
Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks left after the fourth inning with lower-back spasms.
The next challenge for the Red Sox will be dealing with Masterson, a former second-round pick of Boston in 2006 who has won three straight starts and is riding a scoreless-innings streak of 19.
The right-hander has hurled a combined 16 shutout frames with 20 strikeouts over his last two outings. He extended his winning streak on Sunday versus Seattle and former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, notching seven innings of three-hit ball and striking out a season-high 11 batters.
"When you're going against Felix, and there's not one guy in the clubhouse that didn't think we had a chance to win, that's a pretty big compliment to Masty," Francona told his club's website. "From the very first pitch of the game, he came out firing. And he not only was firing, but he was pitching.
"He was using both sides of the plate. He was using the two-seamer, four- seamer, throwing the breaking ball to both sides of the plate. He just kept going up, down, in, out and just worked ahead."
That outing moved Masterson to 7-2 on the season with a 2.83 earned run average in 10 starts. However, one of those losses came at home versus Boston on April 17 as he allowed four runs and 11 hits in five frames.
In six career meetings with the Red Sox, the 28-year-old is 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA. He was part of the package that Boston sent to Cleveland on July 31, 2009 for Victor Martinez.
Countering for the Red Sox is John Lackey, who snapped a three-start slide in his last trip to the mound.
The right-hander was brilliant at Minnesota on Sunday, allowing just one unearned run and a single hit without a walk over six innings. Lackey took a perfect game into the fifth inning and improved to 2-4 with a 3.31 ERA in six starts this season.
"I definitely wanted to go at least another inning," Lackey said. "I was definitely frustrated not to keep going, but the bullpen came in a did a great job, and winning the game is really all that matters."
Lackey, 34, is 6-7 in his career versus the Indians with a 4.25 ERA in 16 meetings.