But enough about the first three innings.
What transpired on a cold and misty Tuesday night at Progressive Field was a four-hour, 19-minute affair between the Indians and Red Sox. And the longest nine-inning game in the ballpark's 15-year history ended in fittingly bizarre fashion -- with Javier Lopez dropping a routine flip from Kevin Youkilis, Asdrubal Cabrera reaching on the error and Mark DeRosa scoring on the play to give the Indians a 9-8 walk-off victory.
It was hardly your typical ending -- in fact, the Indians hadn't ended a game with a player reaching on an error in six seasons -- but it was an ending that satisfied a Tribe team hungry to even up this series.
"We needed a win like this," DeRosa said. "It was a long night. We were able to keep grinding."
The Indians had to grind after a rough start from Anthony Reyes, who was beaten up for seven runs on nine hits in just two-plus innings. In fact, the efforts from Reyes and Red Sox starter Brad Penny stood in stark contrast to the dominant displays of Cliff Lee and Tim Wakefield a night earlier. Neither right-hander made it out of the third inning Tuesday, with Penny foiled not only by his own mistakes but also by a Boston defense that committed two costly errors behind him.
The second of those errors opened the door to the Indians erasing a 7-3 deficit in the third. DeRosa, en route to a 4-for-5 night, reached on Julio Lugo's fielding error, and Shin-Soo Choo scored from second on the play. With two runners now on, Ben Francisco stepped to the plate and hammered a 3-2 fastball from Penny over the left-field wall for a three-run shot to even the score.
"Benny hit a big home run for us," DeRosa said. "I know that was huge for him."
Francisco came in with a .212 average that had him demoted to the No. 9 hole. And DeRosa came in with a .200 average that had him dropped to the No. 8 spot.
This, then, was a night of redemption for that pair of position players. But it also turned out to be a battle of the bullpens, and both relief units were up to the challenge.
For the Indians, a key to the game was the performance they received from Vinnie Chulk in long relief. He tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings to bail out Reyes, and Chulk set the tone for what followed.
Manager Eric Wedge turned to struggling left-hander Rafael Perez, and he also came through, tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings of work. In the seventh, Joe Smith surrendered a tie-breaking RBI single to Lugo, but Tony Sipp came on to get the final out of the inning, and Sipp went on to work a scoreless eighth in which he retired the heart of Boston's order -- David Ortiz, Youkilis and J.D. Drew.
"I do like being in those situations," said Sipp, whose first three big league appearances have all been in nail-biters. "I didn't think I'd be in so many so quick."
The Indians answered quickly after the Red Sox took that 8-7 lead in the seventh. In the bottom of the inning, DeRosa smacked Takashi Saito's 2-0 offering out to left for a solo shot to even the score.
Is this a sign that DeRosa's dreadful April is behind him?
"I sure hope so," DeRosa said with a smile. "Good God. I don't like going 2-for-20 then having to get four hits to salvage the week."
Closer Kerry Wood salvaged his week with a scoreless ninth, but he had to work for it. Wood had come on in a tie game in the ninth inning a night earlier and served up the game-winning three-run homer to Bay. This time, he allowed a leadoff single to Bay, who moved to third on Jason Varitek's one-out single.
With runners on the corners and less than two out, Wood had no room for error. So he unleashed three upper-90s fastballs on Nick Green for a quick strikeout, then got Jacoby Ellsbury to line out to second to end the inning.
"Kerry Wood really bowed his neck and stepped up for us," Wedge said. "That was good to see."
The few people who remained from the announced crowd of 19,613 appeared destined to see extra. Until Lopez's ninth-inning error, that is.
DeRosa got the ninth going for the Tribe with a leadoff single to center, and he moved to second when Francisco put down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Grady Sizemore struck out swinging, and Cabrera seemingly ended the threat when he grounded to first and Youkilis made a nice back-handed stab.
But when Youkilis flipped to Lopez for the easy out, Lopez unexpectedly dropped the ball. And DeRosa, who never broke stride on his way from second, scored easily to give the Indians their first lead at a perfect time. The last time the Indians won in such a manner was on Sept. 28, 2002, when Ellis Burks reached on an error by Royals' pitcher Mike MacDougal to send the Tribe to a 6-5 victory.
"Both infielders were really playing back, and I was able to get a good secondary lead," DeRosa said. "Then it's just trusting [third-base coach] Joel Skinner to tell me what to do. The play was behind me, he was on top of it and he told me to just keep going."
The Indians, who might have to tweak their bullpen after the relievers logged seven innings, obviously, want to keep the good mojo from this wild win going.
"It was a total team win," DeRosa said. "Anthony didn't have his best stuff, but we were able to battle back."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.