CLEVELAND (AP) - Paul Byrd 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,' Byrd recalled. “I just hit 90.
All Byrd wanted was a couple of runs.
“Next thing you know, Byrd said. “We have seven.
And so it goes for these Indians, now one win away from a trip to the World Series.
Byrd, 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 1 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, Byrd 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 RedSox 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 RedSox will start Game 1 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 Byrd, 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 Byrd 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 Byrd, 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 Byrd and gave up a homer to Manny Ramirez, who posed to admire his 451-foot shot, as the RedSox became the first team in ALCS history to hit three straight homers.