Red Sox-Indians Preview
David Ortiz has wasted no time making his farewell tour an historic event.
As he makes his last regular-season appearance in Cleveland, the retiring Boston Red Sox slugger aims to homer in a third straight game during Thursday night's series finale with the Indians.
Ortiz began his final season with a moment that's defined his stellar 20-year career, going 2 for 4 with a two-run homer to help the Red Sox to a 6-2 victory in Tuesday's opener. He followed with a solo shot that sparked a four-run sixth inning that briefly put Boston ahead on Wednesday, though the Indians rallied behind one of Ortiz's former Red Sox teammates for a 7-6 win.
Wednesday's home run was Ortiz's 505th, moving him past Eddie Murray for 26th place on baseball's career list, and he joined Ted Williams as the only players over 40 to homer in a season's first two games.
"That's not going to make me feel any younger,'' Ortiz joked.
Cleveland scored once in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game and went ahead for good on Mike Napoli's solo homer off Junichi Tazawa in the seventh. The first baseman and key contributor to Boston's 2013 World Series title is facing his old team for the first time since being traded to Texas in August.
''I'm playing against a bunch of my buddies over there,'' he said. ''But when I step in between the lines I want to win. It was nice to do it against them, but I'm just going out there and trying to win.''
Ortiz is batting .342 with five homers and nine RBIs in his past nine games at Progressive Field. The nine-time All-Star is 1 for 5 against Danny Salazar, the latest talented arm the Red Sox will face from a rotation expected to be Cleveland's strength.
Salazar showed signs of fulfilling his considerable promise by going 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 30 starts last season and finishing seventh in the AL with 195 strikeouts in 185 innings.
The right-hander won each of his two 2015 starts against the Red Sox, the last a 3-1 home victory in the Oct. 4 finale in which he yielded one run in 5 1-3 innings.
Salazar faces a potent Boston lineup that hit the Indians' top two starters well, recording four runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings against Corey Kluber in the opener and homering three times off Carlos Carrasco on Wednesday.
Joe Kelly (10-6, 4.82 ERA in 2015) gets the call for the Red Sox seeking to build on a strong finish to a up-and-down 2015 campaign. Banished to the minors for nearly a month at midseason, he returned to win his final eight decisions and post a 3.00 ERA over his last nine starts.
Kelly followed up that strong second half by going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in six spring starts.
The right-hander allowed one unearned run over six innings in a 6-4 win over Cleveland on Aug. 19 at Fenway Park.
Kelly has had success against Carlos Santana, who had a three-run homer Wednesday and is 3 for 6 for the series. The switch-hitter is 0 for 5 in the matchup.