CLEVELAND -- There is a whiteboard hanging inside the office of Indians manager Manny Acta, facing him from the opposite end of the room when he sits at his desk. On the board, in pristine handwriting, is a message to all who enter.
"The road to success is not a freeway. It's a tollway and it's always under construction."
It is a fitting summation of the current state of the Indians. The ballclub has high expectations, but the path to baseball's promised land -- the World Series -- is going to require patience. Then again, if Cleveland has thoughts of shocking the world this year, the team is certainly on the right track.
On Wednesday night, the Tribe took down the highly touted Red Sox -- and took advantage of an odd play in the sixth inning -- to earn an 8-4 victory at Progressive Field. With that, Cleveland notched a series win over the preseason darlings of the American League East and collected a third win in a row.
The Indians -- with their youthful roster and a meager payroll -- kept the deep-pocketed and powerful Red Sox reeling with a trio of home runs that powered the offense. The season might only be five games young, but it is clear that Cleveland's local nine are not easily intimidated.
"You can't get caught up in how many potential Hall of Famers they have," outfielder Travis Buck said of the Red Sox. "You've got to go out there and play the game. Yeah, they've got some great players, but that's where they probably beat some younger teams like us, guys that are like, 'Oh, we've got no chance.' We don't sense that here. We've got some great leadership and we've got to go out there and compete every single day. It doesn't matter who we're facing."
The Indians are trying to take a different approach.
"It doesn't matter who we're facing," Buck said.
It has worked thus far against the Red Sox and White Sox, who are both early favorites to make the playoffs out of the AL. The Indians are 3-2 for the first time since 2007, when they won 96 games and came within five outs of reaching the World Series.
The Red Sox? They are 0-5 for the first time since 1996. In the long history of baseball, only two teams -- the '74 Pirates and the '95 Reds -- have opened a campaign with an 0-5 record and gone on to reach the postseason.
"Any time you play the Red Sox you want to give 100 percent," shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera said. "You want to win. That's one of the best teams in this league. We've played hard."
In the series opener on Tuesday, it was soft-tossing starter Josh Tomlin who gave the Red Sox fits. On Wednesday, Cleveland right-hander Mitch Talbot was effective enough for 4 1/3 innings before bowing out and allowing the Tribe's bullpen to hold down the fort the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Shin-Soo Choo snapped an 0-for-13 skid at the plate with a two-run home run in the first inning off Red Sox right-hander Diasuke Matsuzaka. Matt LaPorta provided some late insurance with a solo blast in the eighth. It was Cabrera's three-run bomb in the sixth, though, that proved most damaging.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," Cabrera said.
He put it in the right-field stands.
Cabrera's three-run job pushed Cleveland to a 7-2 lead, but a few moments earlier the advantage was only one. That was before Boston reliever Dennys Reyes hit two batters and walked another, setting up a bases-loaded situation that provided an unusual twist on this evening.
Center fielder Michael Brantley sliced a soft line drive at Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who dropped the ball, setting off a chaotic turn of events. While the runners tried to assess what to do, Youkilis scrambled for the baseball, retrieved it from behind third base and stepped on the bag.
Youkilis then fired the ball to catcher Jason Varitek, who gloved it, stepped on the plate and moved out of the way as Buck ran by. It might have been a double play except for one problem. By first stepping on third, Youkilis removed the force play at home.
Buck was not tagged by Varitek, so the runner was safe and the Indians had a 4-2 lead.
Acta thought Youkilis might have dropped the ball intentionally.
"That's a very, very good play if he did do it on purpose," Acta said. "It just causes chaos. Most of the baserunners don't even know what to do."
The thought crossed Youkilis' mind, but he was caught in-between on the play.
"At first I was like, 'Try to drop it,'" Youkilis said. "Then it was a little too far out of my range, so I tried to catch it, literally. But that was in the back of my head -- to try and drop it."
Varitek did not see Youkilis step on the bag before throwing home.
"I obviously had no idea," Varitek said. "I'm still trying to learn that one right now. I should have went ahead and tagged him, also."
When he was called safe by home-plate umpire Dale Scott, Buck was as confused as anyone else.
"I was walking in and they were like, 'Good baserunning,'" Buck said with a laugh. "I didn't even know what I did. No idea. I knew I was going to be thrown out at home by about 30 feet. That's what I thought. I didn't know he touched third base.
"It was a huge play. That would've been two outs. He could've tagged me or whatnot. But they only got one and that's when it kind of blew the game open a little bit. Big hit by Cabby. That was huge. We definitely capitalized on it."
It was hardly the easiest path to success -- much like the message on the whiteboard says -- but Cleveland will take all the breaks it can get.
"I'm never satisfied," Acta said. "But it feels pretty good that we clinched .500 at home for the first homestand against two of the best teams in the American League."