Perhaps more so than any other win this season, the Tribe (10-16) displayed a relentless determination as they manufactured rallies in three different innings to best a Jays offense that just kept coming back to either tie the game or take a lead.
It was an effort that surely had manager Eric Wedge smiling.
"I can't say enough about the players and how they just kept fighting back," said the Cleveland skipper. "You're not going to ever see anymore fight in a ballclub than what you saw with our guys tonight.
"Talk about the fight in our guys -- not just to do it once or twice, but to do that three times. You don't see that at this level very often."
With the score knotted at 6 in the 12th inning, Indians left fielder Josh Barfield singled on a sharp ground ball to center field off Jays reliever Shaun Camp to break the tie and give the Tribe a one-run lead. Grady Sizemore later doubled to cash in two more runs, pushing the Cleveland lead to three.
Before gaining the lead in the 12th, the Indians had previously led twice in the game, yet surrendered each to a Toronto (18-10) offense that entered the day having scored the most runs in the American League.
"It was a pretty crazy game," said Indians first baseman Ryan Garko. "Every time it seemed that we scored, the Blue Jays come right back and score too, so both offenses were doing a good job."
The most important blown lead came in the ninth inning, when up by two runs, Cleveland closer Kerry Wood surrendered a single to Jose Bautista that plated two runs and tied the game at 6, sending the contest into extra innings.
Given the way the Indians' bullpen has performed this year, one would think that an extra-inning affair could be just a disaster waiting to happen. Yet reliever Rafael Betancourt, who has been inconsistent this year, provided a critical two innings of relief that bridged a gap to his offense's winning rally. The right-hander earned the victory.
"Betancourt was outstanding," said Wedge. "For him to run through two innings like that facing some real good hitters, he really stepped up for us. He helped extend the game and helped our guys get time and the opportunity to comeback offensively."
While the 12th-inning rally proved to be decisive, the Tribe's production in the top of the ninth was also key. Trailing by one run entering the frame, the Indians had come from behind to build a 6-4 lead against Jays reliever Brandon League. Asdrubal Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Shin-Soo Choo drove in runs. The lead was erased, though, by Wood's performance.
"Obviously, playing a good ballclub who's been on a roll, to see our kids fight like that and play with that kind of drive and intensity, it took everything that they had to win that ballgame," Wedge said. "You keep going back and forth like that, [then] you have to keep going out there and pushing and digging deep -- that's what they did."
The Indians had also led earlier in the game with the help of Matt LaPorta's first Major League hit -- a two-run home run in the seventh inning.
LaPorta was not too interested in admiring his homer after the game, but instead relished the victory.
"Most importantly, it's nice that we pulled that game out," said LaPorta, who was playing in just his second big league game. "The Blue Jays are a great club right now, so it was important for us to get a victory there."
The starting pitchers in Monday's affair received no-decisions. Indians right-hander Fausto Carmona allowed four runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, Jays starter Brian Tallet -- who no-hit the Tribe through the first 6 1/3 innings -- yielded three runs on four hits across seven innings.
For the Tribe, Monday's win had some thinking that the club had finally left its April struggles behind.
"A lot of the things haven't gone our way in the first month, so it's nice to finally have some balls come our way and get some results -- because we've been playing hard and just haven't been winning a lot of games," said Garko.