November 27, 2014

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Petrak: Tribe just one win from the World Series

CLEVELAND — Dare to dream. Feel free to fantasize. It’s OK to imagine.
The Indians are one win away from their first World Series since 1997. Let your mind wander through everything that would mean to you, your family, your friends and all of Northeast Ohio.
The Indians won 7-3 Tuesday night at a raucous Jacobs Field. It was their third straight win vs. the mighty Red Sox and gives them a 3-1 lead in the ALCS.
They’ll have the chance to advance at home. C.C. Sabathia, their redemption-seeking ace, will be on the mound in Game 5.
“I don’t think anybody’s more ready than C.C.,” reliever Jensen Lewis said. “He wants to get back out there and show everybody he’s worthy of the stage. We’re 100 percent confident.”
Sabathia, and you, must wait until Thursday, because today’s an off-day.
Tuesday was an on-day, and it was more than delicious enough to savor for an extra day.
The magic in Boston starter Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball disappeared after four innings.
The magic in the Indians’ postseason run is just getting started.
“It was a great night,” said Tribe starter Paul Byrd, who has used an 88 mph fastball to stop the Yankees and Red Sox in the postseason.
For 3 2/3 innings, the Tribe knuckled to the knuckler. Then Jhonny Peralta doubled off the wall in left for the first hit. He was stranded, but the celebration was delayed only temporarily.
After Byrd pitched a 1-2-3 fifth, Wakefield’s knuckler stopped dancing. Tribe fans haven’t stopped since.
The knuckler that had dropped from the batter’s shoulder to his shin at the last instant for six strikeouts in the first four innings started hanging. That’s when the Indians began banging.
Casey Blake entered the game hitting .172 in the postseason. He exited it the latest hero after opening the fifth inning with his first postseason homer to the home run porch. He supplied all the power on a 65 mph knuckler.
“I was just trying to make solid contact and not look like an idiot,” Blake said. “I got lucky and got one on the barrel.”
Three hits, a hit batter and a dropped popup later, Wakefield was on his way down the tunnel toward the clubhouse. When Peralta greeted Manny Delcarmen with a three-run homer to right field, the party was in full swing.
It might not stop until Cleveland is world champion.
“We’re excited,” Peralta said. “We need one more game.”
The Tribe is getting contributions from everyone.
Peralta, criticized more than celebrated all year, has a pair of three-run homers this series and is hitting .406 for the postseason. Forty-year-old Kenny Lofton stole a base a night after homering to become the all-time postseason steals leader. Rookie Asdrubal Cabrera added another RBI single and a leaping catch of a line drive that took every inch of his 6-foot frame and jumping ability. Reliever Rafael Betancourt threw two more scoreless innings and looks more like the Mariano Rivera of 1996 every day.
“This is a team that is extremely close in the clubhouse,” Blake said. “They’re a lot of fun to be around. We really care for one another. That has a lot to do with how much confidence we have and the success we’ve had this year.
“We really pull for each other.”
And manager Eric Wedge.
In his first postseason, he’s made all the right moves. He didn’t hesitate to go with Byrd over Sabathia on short rest against New York in the Division Series or against Boston on Tuesday. He was correct both times.
Even when the Red Sox hit back-to-back-to-back homers — the second time it’s been done postseason history (the first was the Yankees vs. the Tribe in 1997) — it’s not enough to stop Tribe Time.
So go ahead and let yourself think about that World Series matchup with the Colorado Rockies.
Just don’t forget to knock on wood. This is Cleveland, after all.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.