Victor Martinez celebrates his game-winner.
The Indians won a game they had no business winning Monday night. For sheer fortitude, they probably deserved the 11-10 triumph. But it was the Tampa Bay Rays who got what they deserved in blowing a 10-0 lead. This one wasn't over until Susan Boyle sang. For nearly four agonizing hours, it was as inelegant as the little lady from England. Like the singer, however, it hit a surprising high note.
Victor Martinez, who has maintained a never-say-die approach throughout all of the Indians' disappointments this year, refused to buckle to an 0-for-18 slump.
Martinez lined a two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to cap the improbable comeback. Cleveland scored six of its seven runs in the inning with two outs.
"When you do something like this, it is special," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
The Indians got special help from seven Rays pitchers, who combined to issue 10 walks. That trumped the nine free passes given up by four Indians hurlers.
But Jeremy Sowers walked only one over five scoreless innings to earn the win in his first relief outing after 51 career starts.
"I wasn't making particularly good pitches, but my defense made plays behind me," Sowers said. "I think it may have been a way that the baseball gods were saying that good things happen for guys who throw strikes. It's that simple. You need to throw strikes to win."
Ryan Garko triggered the comeback with a two-run homer in the fourth inning that made it 10-2. Garko fueled the final rally with a three-run shot with two outs in the ninth that made it 10-7.
That's when things got even wilder. Literally wilder, as the Indians drew four straight bases on balls.
Pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera drew a four-pitch walk off Grant Balfour.
Jason Isringhausen, the former St. Louis closer trying to resurrect his career with the Rays, then walked Ben Francisco on four pitches. Jamey Carroll walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases and then Isringhausen fell behind Grady Sizemore 3-0. He got a called strike, Sizemore grounded the next pitch foul, but took ball four to force in a run and make it 10-9.
"The walks are unacceptable," Isringhausen. "I'd rather give up home runs than walk guys."
Isringhausen threw a few pitches over the plate to Martinez, who jumped on a 2-2 fastball and lined it to center for the game-winner.
Both starting pitchers were dreadfully wild. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona walked the first four men he faced and five overall in Tampa Bay's five-run second.
The Rays' highly touted David Price made his season debut and walked five over only 3 1-3 innings.
Price walked Carroll to open the bottom of the first. Sizemore followed with a bloop double to left, putting runners at second and third.
But Price struck out Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Shin-Soo Choo -- looking exactly like the phenom who was called up last September and helped the Rays advance to the World Series.
The left-hander continually fell behind in the count and had thrown 100 pitches by the time Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon went to his bullpen in the fourth inning.
NOT GOOD NEWS: Before the game, Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said that right-hander Anthony Reyes likely will need elbow surgery. An MRI revealed an inflamed ulnar nerve and Indians doctors recommended surgery, which would put Reyes out for the season. Reyes will go to Los Angeles this week for a second opinion from noted surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum.
Travis Hafner was in the Indians' clubhouse, but not because he's ready to come off the disabled list. Hafner was recalled from his injury rehab stint in the minors because of soreness in his back. He's been out since April 29 with a sore right shoulder.
Soloff said lefty Aaron Laffey will be sidelined four to six weeks with a right oblique strain. Both Laffey and Reyes left Friday night's game in Cincinnati with their injuries.
Right-hander Joe Smith, on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff, threw a 40-pitch bullpen session. Soloff said Smith will throw a simulated game Wednesday and if all goes well, could start an injury rehab stint in the minors next week.