Yankees Look Like Bombers Again, Launch Shots In Victory At Cleveland
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Travis Hafner tipped his cap and soaked in the applause from Indians fans who spent 10 years pulling for him.
The love ended after his first at-bat.
Hafner hit a tone-setting, three-run homer in the first inning and drove in four runs in his Cleveland homecoming, and Robinson Cano busted out of his early slump with two homers as the injury-riddled New York Yankees ruined the Indians’ highly anticipated home opener under manager Terry Francona with an 11-6 win Monday.
In a ballpark he knows better than any, Hafner turned the cheers to boos with one swing.
“If you’re playing for the Yankees and do well, you’re going to get booed,” he said.
Hafner homered in the first off Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1) and added an RBI single in the third. Cano connected in the fifth and sixth for the Yankees, who are trying to hold on until All-Stars Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira get healthy and come off the disabled list.
Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) shook off a shaky, 34-pitch first and showed no signs of being bothered by a bruised right middle finger as the Yankees finally won a home opener after losing their own and Detroit’s last week.
It was a sweet return for Hafner, who spent 10 seasons with the Indians before signing a one-year, $2 million free agent contract in February with New York. His shot over the fence in center — his 100th career homer at Progressive Field — seemed to deflate Cleveland’s sellout crowd that had been counting down the days until Francona and the Indians came home.
So was that Hafner’s plan?
“Not a bad plan,” he said, smiling.
Hafner, who hit a career-high 42 homers for the Indians in 2006 but was slowed by injuries in recent years, received a warm ovation during pregame introductions.
“It was really special,” Hafner said. “It’s something I’ll never forget. There’s so many people here I know. It’s a little strange seeing people with Hafner Indians jerseys. It was strange coming to the visiting clubhouse and visiting dugout. It was a little weird, but overall it was great being back here.”
Cano walked with one out and Kevin Youkilis singled before a slimmed-down Hafner, who lost 15 pounds during spring training, drove a 2-0 pitch from Jimenez over the wall in center for his second homer with New York. As he rounded the bases, Hafner, the man known simply as “Pronk” was booed — it didn’t take Indians fans long to swear him off as a new enemy.
“They’re passionate fans here,” Hafner said. “I knew with me playing for the Yankees the cheers wouldn’t last too long.”
It was a breakout game for Cano, who came in batting .130 with no extra-base hits or RBIs. Manager Joe Girardi knew it wouldn’t take long for Cano to bust out.
“I haven’t even seen anything change Robbie’s attitude no matter what’s he’s going through,” Girardi said. “He come to the ballpark ready to work with a smile on his face and having fun. I wasn’t worried.”
Mike Aviles hit a two-run homer in the eighth for the rebuilt Indians, who lost the opener of a 10-game homestand after going 3-3 on the road.
After Francona was hired in October, Cleveland owner Paul Dolan spent nearly $120 million on free agents like Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Brett Myers. The Indians, though, may not have enough starting pitching to contend and that was the case against the Yankees as Jimenez was tagged for seven runs in 4 1-3 innings.
The Indians beat two Cy Young winners — R.A. Dickey and David Price — on their season-opening road trip, but couldn’t keep pace with the Yankees.
“When Cano starts feeling good, he can hit anybody, anywhere,” Francona said. “That’s the last guy we want to get hot.”
The day started oddly for Francona, who said he got lost while making the two-block walk from his downtown apartment to Progressive Field. While he may have needed directions to find the ballpark, it was a special day for Francona, whose father, Tito, played for the Indians from 1959-64.
Before the game, the Franconas took part in a special Indians sons-and-fathers ceremonial first pitch that included the Swishers, Alomars, McAllisters and Brantleys. After catching his dad’s throw on one hop, Francona hugged his 79-year-old namesake, a touching moment on a day of pageantry.
It took 36 minutes to play the first, which ended with the score tied 3-all and Francona and Girardi both considering early calls to their bullpens.
After spotting the Yankees three runs in the first, the Indians responded with three runs off Kuroda. Jason Kipnis and Mark Reynolds hit sacrifice flies and Michael Brantley drove in the other run with a single off Lyle Overbay’s glove at first.
Kuroda, though, recovered and only gave up two hits after the first and finished with six strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings.
“He had what I call some bad luck in the first inning,” Girardi said. “He got a groundball up the middle that hit the base and another groundball that was tipped by the first baseman. He kind of gutted it up.”
Hafner’s fourth RBI gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the third, and New York extended its lead to 5-3 in the fourth on Brett Gardner’s two-out single. The Yankees added two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth on Cano’s homer, and three more in the seventh to make it 11-3.
During his eight seasons as Boston’s manager, Francona faced the Yankees nearly 200 times and joked that being part of baseball’s most heated rivalry did one thing to him.
“Made me older,” he cracked.
Francona was also not disappointed New York was missing some of its top players.
“They’re a little beat up,” he said. “And to be totally honest, I hope they stay beat up until Friday.”
Too late for that.
Even bruised, the Yankees can still inflict pain.
NOTES: Swisher said “it hurt” when asked how he felt when the Yankees chose not to re-sign him after four seasons. … Indians C Carlos Santana was replaced in the ninth after he bruised his left thumb trying to catch a pitch from closer Chris Perez. The team said Santana will have X-rays. … Francona said Indians DH Jason Giambi will be added to the roster Tuesday. But with Andy Pettitte starting for New York, the 42-year-old Giambi probably won’t get his first at-bat until later in the week. … Jeter is working out at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla., as he recovers from a broken ankle. On Monday, he took 30 grounders and tested his lateral movement.
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