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Sox beat Indians -- but just barely

CLEVELAND -- His eyes fatigued and his voice steady but quieter than usual, David Wells looked less like Boomer and more like a Baby Boomer. In fact, it looked like he'd been napping.

''No," said the 42-year-old lefthander, ''but I could use one. I felt like I was out there for six hours."

In actuality, Wells was only out on the Jacobs Field mound for about two hours of last night's 3-hour, 40-minute maelstrom, so he could sympathize with those who participated in a 10-9 Boston win in which the Sox and Indians combined for 28 hits, 19 runs, and 5 home runs, three of those long balls coming in the eighth and ninth innings.

''We won," manager Terry Francona said. ''Barely."

The positives were many. The Sox won for the seventh time in eight games and climbed a season-high nine games over .500 (39-30), doing so against an Indians team that had won nine in a row. Wells, despite needing 111 pitches to complete five innings and qualify for the win, has now gone six consecutive games without a loss, dating to his implosive outing in Oakland coming off the disabled list. He improved to a stunning 20-4 career against the Indians, while his ninth win at Jacobs Field leads all visiting pitchers (Pedro Martínez comes next, with six).

Manny Ramírez, back in his former playpen, homered for the 127th time in this park and knocked in four runs, all that damage done against his C.C. Sabathia; he's now 9 for 14 lifetime vs. the 6-foot-7-inch lefthander with 4 HRs and 7 RBIs. Jason Varitek mashed his 12th homer, his seventh from the righthanded side. He is batting .417 righty, which was once considered his weaker side. Johnny Damon, despite a sore right rotator cuff that probably warrants a disabled list stint, provided a ninth-inning homer, turning a 9-8 game into a 10-8 game, crucial considering the Indians scored in the ninth and left the tying run on second base.

Francona before the game called Damon ''about the toughest kid I've ever seen," and no one was questioning that after Damon homered in the top of the ninth and ran down the game's last out, a Coco Crisp liner, barely lifting the arm attached to that nagging shoulder to haul in the ball on the warning track in left center.

Each and every one of those contributions was utterly necessary, given what went on with the bullpen. Leave Mike Timlin out of this discussion -- he pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in what's shaping up to be an All-Star season for the 39-year-old. Alan Embree and Keith Foulke, who combined to pitch the eighth and ninth innings, needed a combined 53 pitches to record six outs.

The Indians plated three in the eighth, two off Embree, one off Foulke, on back-to-back home runs. Embree, who began the eighth against the top of the Indians lineup, sandwiched strikeouts around a walk, then surrendered a two-out, full-count, 424-foot Travis Hafner rocket into the picnic tables in center.

That brought in Foulke, whose 3-and-1 fastball to his first batter, Victor Martinez, landed in the seats in left center, pulling Cleveland within 9-8.

Francona and Embree both said Embree threw the ball well -- good velocity, with conviction -- and for that reason weren't overly concerned.

''It was a tough at-bat," he said of the Hafner homer. ''But I thought I threw the ball well. I felt better today than I have all year. I battled him to 3-and-2 and he just made a good swing on a good pitch for the home run.

''I've made some mental and physical changes that have really helped. I sense that things are turning around. That was my third game [in a row]. I was throwing 93-94 and I'll take that all the time. I was putting guys away. I'm just looking and feeling more confident out there."

Foulke, back out for the ninth, walked the leadoff hitter, Casey Blake, who scored on a Jhonny Peralta double to right. The next batter, Grady Sizemore, hit one on the screws, possibly the hardest hit ball of the night, but directly at Jay Payton in right. He would be stranded there when Crisp flied out to Damon to end the game.

''I think that's what you call hanging on for dear life," Francona said.

When it was all said and done, ''the play that will get lost," the skipper pointed out, ''was Mark Bellhorn's base running." Bellhorn made an excellent slide in the fifth, scoring the Sox's ninth run by stepping around a bat and just sweeping his hand across the plate before Martinez could tag him. The Sox scored six runs in that fifth inning.

They wouldn't score again until the ninth, when Damon homered.

Buy that guy a beer.

''There's a whole bucket there," Wells said, pointing to a blue cooler. ''I'll get it for him."

Given Damon's health, he probably could have used the ice as much as the beer.

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