BOSTON -- In a potential walk-off situation, the first thing manager Terry Francona did when his catcher jump-started a ninth-inning rally with a one-out single up the middle was summon a pinch-runner.
But this was one of those rare occasions when all Francona had at his disposal was another catcher. Still, it was a swap he wanted, and that's when 26-year-old Jarrod Saltalamacchia entered the mix late on Tuesday night, pinch-running for the 39-year-old captain, Jason Varitek.
After Josh Reddick blooped a single that just fell into right-center for a hit, the pinch-runner was on second base, in scoring position. Jacoby Ellsbury then ripped a liner into center that fell for a hit, and Saltalamacchia would decide whether or not it was going to be a walk-off single.
The catcher roared around third and beat the throw from Indians center fielder Ezequiel Carrera with a head-first slide, giving the Red Sox a dramatic 3-2 win.
"It starts with 'Tek getting on base. It was a big hit, and Red's ball falling in, and a clutch hit by Ellsbury. Then I just let my speed do the rest, basically," quipped Saltalamacchia.
What had been a long night -- the game started one hour and 35 minutes late because of rain -- ended in exciting fashion for the Red Sox.
"We got Salty in there -- that's the only guy we had," Francona said. "But it gives us a little bit of a better chance, and it paid off. Red found enough grass in the outfield for a hit, and Jacoby takes a nice swing and the music's playing downstairs."
For Ellsbury, in the midst of a breakout season, it was his first career walk-off hit.
"You're always looking for that opportunity, especially with the rain delay," Ellsbury said. "It's getting a little late. You want to take advantage of this opportunity and, fortunately, I was happy to square that ball up."
Once the ball left Ellsbury's bat, he just hoped he had done enough to win the game.
"Once I hit the ball, I was just hoping [third-base coach Tim Bogar] would send him, and [that] Salty was going to make it," said Ellsbury. "He had a great slide."
Varitek was happy that Saltalamacchia could finish what he started.
"Salty runs well. He runs real well for a big man," Varitek said.
Josh Beckett turned in yet another solid start for Boston, giving up six hits and two runs over six innings, walking none and striking out seven. It was his eighth no-decision in 21 starts.
"He threw four good pitches, they're all pretty hard," said Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. "Good fastball and a good cutter. You just have to put good swings on them and take advantage when he makes mistakes. He was getting his pitches across and pounding the zone, and working both sides of the plate. It's tough to adjust to that."
The righty was pulled after 85 pitches because he had gone through his full warmups before rain brought the tarp on the field a second time before the game could start.
"I had to throw a lot," said Beckett. "When you've got to go warm up twice -- and I was actually staying warm during [the delays], throwing in the cage and stuff -- it definitely wore on me. It was humid, too."
Once Beckett exited, Franklin Morales came up big out of the bullpen, firing two shutout innings.
"Extremely big," said Francona. "He gives us not just one, but two innings. Nice and clean. He was efficient enough in the first inning where he can go back out in the second. Sets it up, where again, we're not scoring a bunch of runs, but we can go to [closer Jonathan Papelbon]."
Papelbon fired a dominant ninth, and wound up earning the win.
Jason Kipnis got the Indians off to a good start, belting a solo homer to right-center with one out in the top of the first.
The Red Sox tied it up in unusual fashion in the bottom of the second, as Varitek struck out on a wild pitch, and David Ortiz scored from third as the ball bounced away from Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana.
Beckett was again victimized by the long ball in the fourth, but again it was only a solo shot. This time it was Chisenhall, whose third homer of the year gave the Indians a 2-1 lead.
"The rain kind of surprised everybody, and he warms up -- sits down," Francona said. "I think that took its toll a little bit. A changeup that kind of ran over the plate, and a first-pitch fastball [for home runs]. They were aggressive, it looked tonight, on first-pitch fastballs. They wanted to hit the first straight one they saw."
Kevin Youkilis had an answer for the Chisenhall blast in the bottom of the sixth, launching an equalizing solo shot over the Green Monster. Youkilis would be ejected in the eighth for arguing what he thought was a check swing.
But the Red Sox overcame that and went on to notch their sixth walk-off win of the season to remain a game ahead of the Yankees in the American League East.
"Those are exciting," said Ellsbury. "To end the game like that with a 'W' on one swing of the bat."
Not to mention a mad dash home from the catcher.