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Indians put Red Sox in 3-1 hole

CLEVELAND — Led by a throwback pitcher who looks as if he stepped out of their 1948 team photo, the Cleveland Indians moved one win from another crack at winning an elusive World Series title.

Pumping his arms with an old-school windup, Paul Byrd blanked Boston long enough and Casey Blake homered to start Cleveland's seven-run rampage in the fifth inning as the Indians beat the Red Sox 7-3 Tuesday night for a 3-1 lead in the AL championship series.

"We want to put them away here," Byrd said as Indians fans kept rocking after the final out. "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 at home in front of these great fans."

The Indians, who knocked out the New York Yankees and their monstrous payroll in the first round of the playoffs, now have the free-spending Red Sox on the ropes. Even three straight homers couldn't rally Boston.

A victory in Game 5 on Thursday night would send Cleveland back to the World Series for the first time since 1997, when the Indians lost a seven-game thriller to the Florida Marlins.

After a day off, the Indians will turn to ace C.C. Sabathia, their left-handed leader. Boston's Josh Beckett, who beat Cleveland in Game 1 at home, will try to send the series back to Fenway Park.

Another Series first-timer — the amazing Colorado Rockies — are patiently waiting for an opponent.

And it just might be the Indians, who haven't won a world championship since '48, when they beat the Boston Braves. Cleveland's 59-year drought is only eclipsed by the Chicago Cubs, those lovable losers whose futility now extends to 99 years this fall after an early-October flame out.

These Indians are burning brightly.

"The scene switched in a blink," Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "Everything is kind of slipping away, but we're still playing. If we don't win, we go home. We've got to get to the ballpark and get a win."

Blake homered leading off the fifth against Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, whose now-you-see-it-now-you-don't pitch had Cleveland's hitters swinging at air for nearly four innings.

But in the fifth, helped by a dropped foul pop and a ball seemingly destined for an inning-ending double play that tipped off Wakefield's glove, the Indians blew it open by hanging a seven spot on the scoreboard — just as they did in the 11th inning at Fenway Park to win Game 2.

Cleveland batted for 35 minutes in the fifth, and the down time seemed to hurt Byrd, who gave up back-to-back 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.

Lewis gave up a homer to Manny Ramirez, who posed to admire his 451-foot shot, as the Red Sox became the first team in ALCS history to hit three straight homers.

They came too late as the Red Sox missed a chance to even the series and now must hope they can conjure up some of their 2004 magic when they came back from an 0-3 deficit, beat the Yankees four straight and swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the Series.

Byrd found his unique windup almost by accident. Following shoulder surgery in 2002, he began swinging his arms, hoping the momentum it created might give him more velocity. After trying it out during batting practice, a few teammates told him they had a hard time picking up the ball.

That's all he needed to hear.

Against the Red Sox, he even double-pumped a few times — once on a strikeout pitch to Ortiz.

"The double pump was 1-for-3 tonight. I gave up a couple hits," Byrd said.

Rafael Betancourt needed just six pitches to get through Youkilis, Ortiz and Ramirez in the eighth, then the righty finished off the Red Sox in the ninth.

Boston has been haunted by past Oct. 16 failures, and Blake's leadoff homer in the fifth must have stirred painful memories across Red Sox Nation. It was on that date that New York's Aaron Boone opened the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS with a series-clinching homer — off Wakefield.

Blake, Cleveland's clutch third baseman who has hit several big homers this season, drilled an 0-1 pitch onto the home-run porch in left, a shot that seemed to awaken the Indians' bats.

"I just didn't want to look like an idiot," Blake said. "I got lucky there, hit one on the barrel and that got us going."

Franklin Gutierrez followed with a single and Wakefield plunked Kelly Shoppach. A groundout moved up Gutierrez, and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a foul pop toward the photographer's pit next to Boston's dugout.

Youkilis, the first baseman, seemed to have it under control, but the ball squirted from his glove. Cabrera then hit a liner — a possible double-play ball — that Wakefield deflected and trickled behind the mound.

Wakefield struck out Travis Hafner, but Victor Martinez's RBI single made it 3-0. That chased Wakefield, who lasted 4 2-3 innings — the third straight Red Sox starter to last exactly that long, all of them done after a Martinez single.

"You can't go to the bullpen in the fifth inning three games in a row," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Manny Delcarmen came on, but the Indians weren't done.

Peralta, the Indians' Mr. October 2007, homered over the wall in right to make it 6-0. Kenny Lofton singled and stole second, his record-setting 34th career swipe in the postseason, and Blake, who started the outburst, dumped an RBI single.

Wakefield hadn't pitched since Sept. 29, a 16-day layoff that included the 41-year-old being dropped from Boston's roster in the first round against the Los Angeles Angels because of a sore back.

He started out strong, striking out six in the first 3 1-3 innings. He didn't allow a hit until Peralta sat back on a knuckler that didn't knuckle and lined a two-out double off the left-field wall in the fourth.

Byrd was just as tough on the Red Sox. He worked them inside, outside, up and down, taking advantage of plate umpire Paul Emmel's pitcher-friendly strike zone. It was just as he did last week at Yankee Stadium, when the Indians ousted the Bronx Bombers on their home turf.

"He's such a strike thrower," Francona said. "He got on a roll."