CLEVELAND (AP) – Travis Hafner came home and helped the Yankees wreck Cleveland’s opener.
Hafner drove in four runs in his return to Cleveland and Robinson Cano homered twice as injury-riddled New York ruined the Indians’ highly anticipated first home game under manager Terry Francona with an 11-6 win Monday.
Hafner hit a three-run homer in the first inning 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.
Mike Aviles hit a two-run homer in the eighth for Cleveland.
It was a sweet homecoming for Hafner, who spent 10 seasons with the Indians before signing a one-year free agent contract in February with New York. He set the tone for the Yankees with his first swing, sending a shot over the fence that seemed to deflate Cleveland’s sellout crowd that had been counting down the days until Francona and the Indians came home.
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.
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 3-3 and Francona and New York manager Joe Girardi both considering early calls to their bullpens.
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 from Cleveland fans. However, they weren’t so happy to see the man called “Pronk” after he connected for his 100th career homer at Progressive Field.
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 was booed — it didn’t take Indians fans long to swear him off as a new enemy.
With the crowd of 41,567 quickly restless, 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.
Hafner’s fourth RBI gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the third. Cano doubled leading off, and one out later, Hafner slapped a single to center.
New York extended its lead to 5-3 in the fourth on Brett Gardner’s two-out single. Chris Stewart singled with two outs and stole second off an unsuspecting Jimenez before Gardner hit a blooper to center that found a soft place to land between four charging Indians fielders.
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.
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