CLEVELAND (AP) – When this season of mostly mediocrity finally ended, Indians manager Terry Francona stood in Cleveland’s clubhouse and expressed thanks to his young team.
There won’t be playing any more baseball in October, but it was not for a lack of effort.
“They fought so hard to make our season be a positive,” Francona said. “We really were having a tough time and that takes a lot of will and a lot of caring and a lot of fight.”
Danny Salazar finished his first season as a full-time starter with a solid outing and the Indians capped their inconsistent season with a 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday to end up at 81-80 – only the third time they were over .500 all season.
Salazar (14-10) gave up one run 5 1-3 innings to win for just the second time in six starts. The right-hander began the season at Triple-A Columbus, a demotion that served as a wake-up call for the 25-year-old, who bounced back and tied Carlos Carrasco for the team lead in wins.
Bryan Shaw worked out of a jam in the eighth, Cody Allen got three outs for his 34th save and the Indians, who were 49-59 on Aug. 7, ended a sometimes rough 2015 on a positive note.
Instead of packing up for a playoff series, the Indians tossed their belongings into cardboard boxes for shipping or storage, exchanged hugs and said goodbye until next season.
“We didn’t do good enough, but from where we were, we did some good things and the hope is you build off of that,” Francona said. “We were all forced to kind of dig deep and try to figure out how we’re going to do things better, and I think if anything it probably brought at lot of us closer. We endured it, I think we’ll be better for it.”
Despite having shortstop Francisco Lindor, perhaps the AL’s Rookie of the Year, and one of baseball’s best rotations, Cleveland drew 1,388,905 fans to Progressive Field, the lowest attendance in the ballpark’s 22-season history.
Boston starter Rick Porcello (9-15) came up short in his bid to hit double-digit wins for the seventh straight season. He allowed 10 hits in seven innings.
The Red Sox announced that manager John Farrell, who left the club in August after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, will be back next season. The 53-year-old Farrell recently completed his final course of chemotherapy treatments in Boston.
Boston went 78-84 and finished last in the AL East for the second straight year. The Red Sox have posted consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1993-94.
“I’m proud of what we did here,” said Torey Lovullo, who served as interim manager when Farrell left. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with what they did to lead into 2016. “With a couple of key additions I think we’re going to be exactly where we want to be, and that’s win a world championship.”
David Ortiz drove in Boston’s only run with a double in the second. Big Papi was lifted for a pinch-runner after walking in the sixth, ending a season in which he surpassed 500 career homers and finished with 108 RBIs, his most since driving in 117 in 2007.
Porcello’s throwing error on a pickoff attempt and Jesus Aguilar’s RBI single gave the Indians a 3-1 lead in the third.
With runners at the corners and one out, Porcello tried to catch Lonnie Chisenhall off the bag at first but threw wildly, allowing Michael Martinez to score. Chisenhall moved up and scored on Aguilar’s base hit.
Boston took a 1-0 lead in the first on consecutive doubles by Bogaerts and Ortiz, who was then retired trying to steal third. The Indians tied it on rookie Giovanny Urshela’s run-scoring single in the second.
Francona’s teams have finished with a winning record in 11 straight seasons, the longest active streak in the majors.
SWINGS AND MISSES
Cleveland’s pitchers struck out a franchise-best 969 hitters.
Outgoing Indians president Mark Shapiro posed for photos on the field with his family, owner Paul Dolan and other Cleveland employees before the game. Shapiro, who has spent 24 seasons with the club, is leaving to become Toronto’s president.
Rather than throw out the ceremonial first pitch, Shapiro caught throws from his children. His daughter, Sierra, lobbed a strike while his son, Caden, fired a fastball that skipped in the dirt and nearly took out his dad.
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