CLEVELAND — A team that had trouble winning on a consistent basis over the first two months of the season can’t lose now.
Though it took them what seemed like an eternity Wednesday night — and Thursday morning — at Progressive Field, the Indians continued their streak of success with a dramatic 7-4 victory in 12 innings that completed a three-game sweep of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox.
Cleveland won it in dramatic fashion, with Asdrubal Cabrera belting a three-run walk-off home run off former Indians reliever Edward Mujica with one out in the 12th to send the Indians to their season-high sixth straight win.
The game took 4 hours, 29 minutes to complete, and that was after a 2-hour, 28-minute rain delay prior to the first pitch. The game ended at 2:02 a.m., with a surprising amount of fans still in the park.
It was worth the wait for the Indians, who bumped their record back to the .500 level (30-30) for the first time since April 24. Cleveland is within three games of first-place Detroit, which lost Thursday, in the Central Division standings.
“It wasn’t ideal at the beginning of the game with the delay and everything, but we got a win and that was the goal for the day,” Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber said.
Kluber’s dominant run ended in the series finale, with the right-hander allowing four runs on five hits, two walks and two hit batters over 6 1/3 innings.
It was the first time since April 19 — a string of eight starts — that Kluber surrendered more than three earned runs.
“I didn’t think it was his best stuff tonight, but saying that, it was still pretty good,” manager Terry Francona said. “If that’s not him at his best, it’s still pretty good. I just thought he didn’t pitch in quite as aggressively as he has in the past.”
Kluber battled his command from the start but was able to keep the Indians in the game, working out of jams until David Ortiz stepped to the plate with one out and a runner on in the sixth.
Kluber got ahead of Ortiz 0-2 before Boston’s designated hitter clouted his 13th home run an estimated 422 feet to right field to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Cleveland came right back in the bottom of the inning.
The first five Indians reached base, with Boston starter Brandon Workman departing in the process. Jason Kipnis plated the first run with a base hit, while David Murphy drove in a pair with a single.
Murphy, who has produced a number of key hits — 18-for-47 with runners in scoring position — got to a pitch low and away, slapping it just over the head of Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia for a 4-2 lead.
Boston bounced back quickly, putting the first two aboard in the seventh off Kluber before Brock Holt lined a pitch back through the middle to tie it at 4.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I have been, but for the most part, until those last couple innings, I was able to make pitches when I needed to,” Kluber said. “I just made a bad pitch to Ortiz, and that last inning I just wasn’t able to put some guys away.”
As they did in the first two games of the series, the Indians scored first, getting a one-out single from Michael Brantley to score Cabrera in the first. During the series, Cleveland outscored Boston 6-0 in the first inning.
The Indians got key contributions from under-used relievers John Axford and Carlos Carrasco.
Deposed closer Axford pitched for the first time since May 27, coming on to strike out Jonny Gomes for the final out in the eighth. He then struck out Stephen Drew to start the ninth. Carrasco, who had not pitched since May 26, held Boston scoreless and without a hit over the final two innings while striking out four.
“They did a really good job. That’s a tough situation for both of them,” Francona said. “I thought both of them were outstanding. It’s almost a little bit unfair because they haven’t pitched and you put them in that situation and they were outstanding.”
Mike Aviles started the 12th-inning rally with a one-out single off Mujica, moving to third on a base hit from Michael Bourn. Cabrera took a strike before lining a pitch into the right-field seats.
“Im just trying to hit a fly ball,” Cabrera said. “But I know Mujica. I know what kind of pitch he likes to throw and he threw me the one I was looking for.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.