One game after clinching a playoff berth, the Red Sox jumped on Fausto Carmona for four runs in the first inning, then pinch-hitter Jeff Bailey tripled and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth to give Boston a 5-4 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night.
The victory staved off elimination in the AL East for one more day because Tampa Bay beat Baltimore 11-6 to lower its magic number to clinch the division to one.
"We're still trying to play and win the division," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who had his 54th double and his 20th stolen base. "Guys are still going to come out and play hard. ... But we'll be ready to go."
If the Indians were hoping the Red Sox would be hung over from their celebration, they quickly learned otherwise.
Pedroia doubled and scored on David Ortiz's double to help the Red Sox open a 4-0 lead less than 24 hours after clinching at least a wild-card berth. Carmona managed to finish the first but didn't make it out for the second -- the shortest outing for an Indians starter since he lasted one inning on June 27, 2007.
"That's what they do. They come out and swing the bats," said Bryan Bullington, who pitched five innings of shutout relief to keep the Indians in the game. "Fausto, I'm sure he'd like to have some of those pitches back. But he had a rough one."
Bullington relieved Carmona and held Boston scoreless until the Indians tied it with one in the second, two in the third and one in the fifth. The top five batters in the order each had two hits for Cleveland.
David Aardsma (4-2) earned the victory with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing one hit and striking out one. Rafael Perez (4-4) gave up a run on two hits and an intentional walk in one inning.
Perez was the fourth Indians pitcher, taking over to start the eighth and striking out Kevin Youkilis before Bailey lined the first pitch he saw high off the Green Monster near center field for a standup triple. Kotsay, also swinging at the first pitch, lined one down the first-base line and into the corner for an RBI double.
Carmona pitched Games 2 and 6 against the Red Sox in the playoffs last year -- both in Fenway Park -- and gave up a total of 11 runs in six innings. He also gave up five runs in one inning over two relief appearances -- both losses -- in Boston midway through the 2006 season.
In all, he was charged with four runs on five hits and a walk while striking out one in one inning, his shortest outing in more than a year. He said through a translator that nothing that happened in the past affected him when he returned to the Fenway mound on Wednesday.
"He just wasn't able to put guys away," manager Eric Wedge said. "They just really made him work."
Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew returned to the lineup for the first time in a month but played just three innings before leaving the game for a pinch runner.
"It went well. It got a little stiff, but not too bad," said Drew, who went on the disabled list on Aug. 18 with a strained lower back. "I really didn't expect to get as jelly-legged as I did out there. But when you think that I'm not doing anything for five or six weeks except sit down and lay down ... we've got some catching up to do."
Francona said he would consider using Drew as the designated hitter on Thursday.
Indians 3B Andy Marte, who strained his calf on Tuesday and left the game, was not in the lineup and he will return to Cleveland on Thursday morning. ... The Red Sox became the first team to clinch a playoff spot by beating a 20-game winner since Oakland beat Wilber Wood to win the AL West in 1973, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Pedroia joined Coco Crisp (20) and Jacoby Ellsbury (49) with at least 20 and giving the Red Sox three players with 20 or more steals for the first time since 1914. Pedroia banged his nose diving for a grounder but stayed in the game. ... Paul Byrd gave up four runs on 11 hits and a walk while striking out four in five innings. ... Chris Carter had his first major-league RBI for the Red Sox, in the first.