Paul rd couldn't believe his eyes. Pumping his arms and rocking his body, Cleveland's retro right-hander, looked up at the scoreboard and noticed his fastball had registered 90 mph on the radar gun.
Returning to the Indians' dugout in the fifth inning, he made a small request.
"I high-fived a couple guys and said, 'Hey pick me up here,'" rd recalled. "I just hit 90."
All rd wanted was a couple of runs.
"Next thing you know," rd said. "We have seven."
And so it goes for these Indians, now one win away from a trip to the World Series.
rd, relying on guile and location, blanked Boston until the sixth inning, Casey Blake hit a solo homer and Jhonny Peralta added a three-run shot in Cleveland's seven-run, fifth-inning outburst that sent the Indians to a 7-3 win Tuesday night over the Red Sox and a 3-1 lead in the AL championship series.
Hang tight, Colorado Rockies. You may have a dance partner sooner than expected.
The Indians, now on the doorstep of their first Series appearance since 1997, are roaring through October like they own it.
Given little chance to win the best-of-seven series after getting clobbered 10-3 in Game — at Boston, Cleveland's on the verge of knocking off its second straight AL East corporate giant.
First, it was the New York Yankees.
The Red Sox could be next.
On Thursday night in Game 5, the Indians will turn to C.C. Sabathia, one of their pocket aces who fizzled in the opener but who now has a chance to do something never seen before in Cleveland: clinch a pennant at home.
"We want to put them away here," rd said. "But that's a great team over there. They can easily come back and win three. We're taking absolutely nothing for granted. We'll enjoy the win for now, but we want to put them away."
Just like those rockin'-and-rollin' Rockies, these Indians, who haven't won it all since 1948, are soaring like a team of destiny.
Everything is falling their way.
The Red Sox seem to be falling apart.
Since the 11th inning of Game 2 &
when the Indians also scored seven runs &
Boston has been outscored 18-5. The Red Sox have failed in the clutch; lacked their usual strong pitching and haven't looked like themselves since strolling into Jacobs Field.
Even back-to-back-to-back homers in the sixth inning weren't enough.
They've got to turn it around, quickly, or face a colder New England winter than usual.
"We'll just keep playing," said rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia, "until we can't anymore."
In Game 5, the Red Sox will start Game — winner Josh Beckett, their Cy Young candidate who held the Indians to two runs in six innings and may have to do better than that to move the series back to Fenway Park.
"We've got the right guy on the mound that day," said knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who coasted through four innings in Game 4 before the Indians unloaded on him. "Hopefully we can continue this back in Boston."
Blake homered leading off the fifth against Wakefield, whose now-you-see-it-now-you-don't pitch had Cleveland's hitters flailing at air for nearly four innings.
Then, the ball began bouncing in the Indians' favor as a dropped foul pop and a grounder seemingly headed for an inning-ending double play tipped off Wakefield's glove and allowed the Indians to blow it open &
just as they did in Game 2.
"It's one of those innings that everybody exploded," Blake said. "I can't really tell you what happened."
Cleveland batted for 35 minutes in the fifth, and the down time seemed to hurt rd, who gave up consecutive homers in a seven-pitch span to Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz to open the sixth before Indians manager Eric Wedge rescued him.
As rd walked to the dugout in favor of rookie Jensen Lewis, Cleveland's towel-twirling fans saluted the 36-year-old, who instead of trying to blow pitches past hitters, uses off-speed stuff to fool them.
"My goal was to move the ball in and out," said rd, who used the same strategy to beat the Yankees in the Bronx last week. "I really didn't strike anybody out. I was hoping to jam some people."
Lewis replaced rd and gave up a homer to Manny Ramirez, who posed to admire his 451-foot shot, as the Red Sox became the first team in ALCS history to hit three straight homers.
They came too late as Boston missed a chance to even the series and now the Red Sox must hope they can conjure up some of their 2004 ALCS magic when they came back from an 0-3 deficit and won four straight against the Yankees.
"We definitely got our work cut out for us," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "But I don't think we should look at it as we've got to win three games in a row. We've just got to win two days from now."
Boston has been haunted by past Oct. 16 failures, and Blake's homer must have stirred painful memories across Red Sox Nation. It was on that date that New York's Aaron Boone opened the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS with a series-clinching homer &
Franklin Gutierrez followed Blake's shot with a single and Wakefield plunked Kelly Shoppach. A groundout moved up Gutierrez, and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a foul pop that first baseman Youkilis seemed to have lined up.
But the ball squirted from his glove, giving Cabrera another shot and the rookie second baseman hit a hard comebacker &
a possible double-play ball &
that Wakefield deflected and trickled behind the mound.
"It was hit right at me, but Wake stuck out his glove," Pedroia said. "Things like that kind of happened all night. But we're still alive and still playing. The opportunity is there."
Wakefield was pulled after 4 2-3 innings &
the third straight Red Sox starter to last exactly that long in this series. Manny Delcarmen came on but he couldn't stop the Indians' onslaught, either.
Peralta, Cleveland's Mr. October 2007 with a .406 average and nine RBIs in the postseason, homered to make it 6-0. Kenny Lofton singled and stole second, his record-setting 34th career swipe in the postseason, and Blake, who started the outburst, dumped an RBI single.
At that point, Indians fans started thinking about what's on deck &
another chance to finally end a 59-year drought without a World Series title.
"It means a lot for us," Victor Martinez said. "We've come a long way. To be in this spot right now, it's amazing."
Notes: Ramirez has a record 10 career championship series homers, one more than George Brett. ... scoring seven runs in an inning twice in one series, the Indians matched the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, who did it against Minnesota. ... Of Cleveland's 51 runs in the postseason, 27 have come with two outs. ... Youkilis was charged with an error on a pickoff attempt in the sixth, his first miscue in 1,644 chances dating to July 4, 2006.
Indians roll past Red Sox, to brink of World Series