CLEVELAND — Perseverance and tenacity were trademarks of this Indians team all season long.
Both were on display in full force again Friday night at Jacobs Field.
Trailing the Yankees for the majority of the night, Cleveland fought back to forge an unlikely tie, before winning Game 2 of the Division Series 2-1 in dramatic fashion on a bases-loaded single from Travis Hafner in the 11th inning.
The win gave the underdog Indians a 2-0 series lead, with the site switching to Yankee Stadium for Games 3 and 4.
“This is a great win for us,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “It was a hard-fought battle between both teams. When you win like that, you should enjoy it, and we’re going to.”
Cleveland trailed 1-0 through seven innings and appeared to be en route to a series-tying defeat when the bizarre took over in the eighth in favor of the Indians.
With impenetrable setup man Joba Chamberlain on the mound to pass the torch to shoo-in Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, a swarm of midges invaded Jacobs Field, annoying batters and pitchers alike, none more than Chamberlain.
Obviously bothered, Chamberlain walked two, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch before Cleveland scored the tying run on a passed ball, with Grady Sizemore barreling into Chamberlain on a slide at home.
“They definitely did (bother Chamberlain),” said Yankees manager Joe Torre. “He was having trouble seeing out there. It was something that was unusual.”
There was nothing unusual about the manner in which the Indians won the game. One of the major league leaders in comeback victories during the regular season, Cleveland rallied again when it mattered most, loading the bases with two outs in the 11th before Hafner drove a 3-2 pitch from Luis Vizcaino into right-center to touch off the celebration.
“It was great to come through in that situation,” Hafner said. “But more importantly, we won the game. That’s all were trying to do, win games.”
It probably shouldn’t have come to that for the Indians — not with Fausto Carmona on the mound.
A night after riding to ace C.C. Sabathia’s rescue with an offensive explosion that included four home runs, Cleveland hitters left Carmona to fend for himself.
Fortunately for the Indians, he was once again more than up to the task.
Carmona did practically everything in his power to pitch Cleveland to a 2-0 series lead, allowing a run on three hits through nine innings, but his offense couldn’t master Yankees starter Andy Pettitte.
“It was a great effort,” Wedge said. “I think you saw early on that he was going to command the baseball game. When you’re facing a lineup like that, there’s not much room for error.
“It was unbelievable,” Hafner said of Carmona’s effort. “That’s the only way to put it.”
Pettitte wasn’t nearly as dominant as Carmona, allowing seven hits through 6 1/3 innings, but no runs crossed the plate against the playoff-tested left-hander, who left with the Yanks in front 1-0 and runners on first and second with one out.
“He pitched about as courageous a game as you ever want to see,” Torre said.
Throwing first-pitch strikes to the first five batters, Carmona retired six of the first seven hitters he faced before allowing his first hit of the game with one out in the third.
It was a big one, with Melky Cabrera giving the Yanks the early lead on a solo homer to right field. Cabrera, New York’s center fielder, threw out Johnny Peralta at the plate to end the second after a single by Kenny Lofton.
Lofton, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs in Game 1, was a catalyst again, joining Sizemore and Hafner with two hits, while walking twice and scoring once.
After surrendering the homer, Carmona was untouchable, allowing just two singles the rest of the way.
The Indians had a multitude of opportunities against Pettitte, collecting hits in every inning he worked, while putting the leadoff man aboard in four of them.
They squandered every chance, with their most glaring failure coming in the sixth, when Sizemore tripled to the right-field corner to lead off the inning, but went no further with Asrdrubal Cabrera, Hafner and Victor Martinez going down in order.
Cabrera swung at the first pitch and grounded meekly back to the mound, while Pettitte struck out Hafner and Martinez, pumping his fist as he made his way to the visiting dugout.
The Indians missed tying the game by a few feet with one out in the seventh, when Johnny Peralta hit a drive to the deepest part of the ballpark in straightaway center for a double off Pettitte. Peralta stayed put, with Chamberlain relieving Pettitte and getting the final two outs before imploding in the eighth.
Unlike New York’s bullpen, Cleveland was as reliable as ever, with Rafael Perez, who worked two scoreless innings in Game 1, accomplishing the feat again.
Perez didn’t allow a hit, striking out one to get the win after the Indians completed their 11th-inning rally.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.