CLEVELAND — Four games into the season, the team that was supposed to win it all hasn’t won at all.
This isn’t what the Red Sox expected.
Josh Tomlin outpitched Boston’s Josh Beckett, Cleveland came up with just enough timely hits and the Indians kept the Red Sox winless so far this season with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night over the team many predicted would make it to the World Series this season.
“It’s not a lot of fun,” manager Terry Francona said. “But I don’t think anyone is going to feel sorry for us. We’ve got to play the game right and things will work out.”
Tomlin (1-0) allowed one run and three hits in seven innings, taming a star-studded Boston lineup that has yet to find its groove. Francona tried juggling his batting order, moving Carl Crawford into the No. 2 hole, but it had little impact and Boston’s team average dropped to .186.
“We need some kind of spark right now,” said Crawford, signed as a free agent in December. “It’s a little surprising, frustrating. We’ve got high hopes for this season.”
Tony Sipp worked a perfect eighth before Indians closer Chris Perez made things interesting in the ninth. He gave up a one-out single to Dustin Pedroia and a two-out walk to Kevin Youkilis before retiring David Ortiz on a liner to left for his first save.
Beckett (0-1) couldn’t stop the Red Sox from falling to 0-4, their worst start since opening 0-6 in 1996.
Still, the right-hander isn’t panicking.
“There’s too much history here,” he said. “Everyone here knows how to win. We’ll figure it out. We know what we’ve got to do.”
Orlando Cabrera, Jack Hannahan and Carlos Santana drove in runs for Cleveland.
Indians manager Manny Acta said before the game that he didn’t expect Tomlin, who went 6-4 in 12 starts after being recalled from the minors last July, to be intimidated by Boston’s loaded lineup. Tomlin showed steel nerves in handling one of baseball’s best 1-through-9 lineups.
“Josh Tomlin was fantastic,” Acta said. “He had their lefties off balance and had full control of his four-pitch repertoire. He deserves all the credit.”
The crowd of 9,025, many of them Boston fans, was the smallest to see the Red Sox play since 2000.
Picked by many to win the AL pennant in 2011 after adding All-Stars Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez this winter, they were swept in three straight games to open the season in Texas, where the Rangers clubbed 11 homers and outscored Boston 26-11.
It’s still early, but unless Boston gets things turned around soon, it won’t be for very long. A trip to Cleveland to face the youthful Indians figured to help, but so far, it’s been more of the same.
With a gametime temperature of 42 degrees and dropping and a stiff wind blowing in off Lake Erie, it felt more like the Browns should be hosting the Patriots. Several of the Red Sox snatched up long parkas and oversized mittens from a large duffel bag to combat the elements.
“I’m putting one of these in my locker right now,” Crawford said before stashing a coat in his locker.
It may be unseasonably cold here, but the temperature back home is rising.
The beloved “Sawx” are struggling.
Boston fans were counting on Beckett, the one-time ace who struggled last season and again in spring training, to stop the skid.
The right-hander was making his first start in Cleveland since Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS, when he saved Boston’s season by holding the Indians to five hits and striking out 11 in eight innings. The Red Sox rallied from a 3-1 deficit and won the series in seven, then added a World Series crown.
The Indians managed just one hit off Beckett for three innings before getting three and scoring two runs in the fourth.
Travis Hafner, showing signs of being able to turn on pitches again, rocketed a double off the right-field wall with one out and scored on Orlando Cabrera’s single. Beckett walked Austin Kearns and struck out Matt LaPorta on a nasty changeup before No. 9 hitter Hannahan grounded a run-scoring single to center.
Cleveland made it 3-1 in the fifth when Asdrubal Cabrera doubled, moved up on a groundout and scored on Carlos Santana’s sacrifice fly.
Beckett allowed three runs and five hits in five innings, not a bad start, but not good enough to get Boston its first win.
“They grinded out some at-bats,” Beckett said, “and I got the ball up a little bit.”
The right-hander nearly got through the first two innings unscathed, but walked Ortiz with two outs in the second after getting ahead 1-2 in the count. J.D. Drew followed with a double and Jarrod Saltalamacchia snapped an 0-for-10 start with an RBI single.
Shin-Soo Choo, who led the AL with 14 outfield assists, kept it 1-0 by throwing Drew out at the plate.
NOTES: As if the trip to Texas wasn’t bad enough, the Red Sox had a rough flight to Cleveland. “We got bounced around a little bit,” said Francona, who left his seat as the plane prepared to land to check on Pedroia, a nervous flyer. “I almost got sick. It was bad.” … Indians OF Grady Sizemore played seven innings in an exhibition for Triple-A Columbus, the latest steps in his come back from knee surgery. He’s scheduled to play seven more on Thursday for Double-A Akron as the Indians build up his stamina.