CLEVELAND -- The Indians have had a habit of finding a new hero on a nightly basis this season. Sometimes, though, the best strategy is to ride the hot hand, hoping that a one-man show emerges at some point.
Right now, Asdrubal Cabrera is providing precisely that for the Indians.
On Monday night, with rain pouring down on Progressive Field, and lightning flashing above, Cabrera stepped into the batter's box with the game on the line against the Red Sox. The go-ahead run stood on second base as raindrops dripped from the brim of Cabrera's helmet.
"He's the guy we want to see at the plate right now," manager Manny Acta said.
Cabrera happily assumed the role of hero again, leading the surging Tribe to a 3-2 victory over Boston. The red-hot shortstop sliced a 96-mph fastball from Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard to left field. It ricocheted off the wall to score Michael Brantley, sending Cleveland to another dramatic win at home.
The tone was set by a solid performance from starter Justin Masterson, the troops were fired up when Acta was ejected for arguing a close play in the eighth and the game was sealed with another nerve-racking ninth from closer Chris Perez.
After allowing two singles, Perez collected his 13th save with an improbable double-play grounder off the bat of the speedy Carl Crawford. It was not the easiest path to victory, but the Indians found a way to get it done.
Cleveland is indeed becoming Believe-land.
"I don't think there was ever a doubt on the team if we could do this or not," Masterson said. "I think you'd have to answer that question, if people are going to start believing. We're just going out and winning ballgames."
At a furious rate.
The win over the Red Sox improved the Indians' Major League-leading record to 30-15 overall and 19-4 at home. Only one other Cleveland club has opened a tour with the same mark in front of its home audience. The 2007 Tribe also began 19-4 at home, and eventually fell one win shy of reaching the World Series.
Acta is not looking that far ahead just yet.
"We have played very good baseball for a month and three weeks," Acta said. "There's four months to go. I want to see my team play six months of good baseball. In four months, if things don't stand up there, then everybody is going to forget about these first two months.
"It's been great, but we have a ways to go."
In the early going, Cabrera has arguably been Cleveland's Most Valuable Player.
In a 12-4 rout of the Reds on Sunday, Cabrera went 5-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs in a career day for Cleveland. On Monday, the shortstop offered an encore showing of 3-for-4 with his 10th home run of the year -- a solo shot off Clay Buchholz in the fourth -- plus the game's decisive blow in the eighth.
Over his past 14 games, all Cabrera has done is hit .421 (24-for-57) with five homers and 13 RBIs for the Indians. Against Boston (25-22), Cabrera had a consecutive hits streak end at seven at-bats in the sixth inning with a hard-hit flyout to left field.
That was only a temporary setback.
"Asdrubal is locked in right now," Brantley said. "He's swinging the bat unbelievable. You guys see it. We see it. It fires us up, because right now he's the hot stick at the plate."
Masterson put the Indians in a position for a late comeback with a solid effort over 7 2/3 innings. The big sinkerballer -- traded to the Indians by the Red Sox in 2009 -- limited Boston to two runs on four hits, including an RBI single by Dustin Pedroia in the third and a solo shot by Crawford in the fifth.
In the eighth inning, with the Reds Sox clinging to a 2-1 lead, Masterson's performance included a twist. After catching a feed from first baseman Matt LaPorta on a one-out groundball off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury, the pitcher made an awkward kick at first base while on the run.
Ellsbury was ruled safe, even though replays showed that Masterson appeared to flick the bag with his toe after initially missing it. Acta ran out of the dugout and argued the call with first-base umpire Rob Drake, who eventually ejected the manager from the contest. It was the fifth career ejection for Acta.
"I think that was more great for the guys to see that," Masterson said, "because he got fired up."
Acta said Drake's explanation was that, after fumbling at first on the play, Masterson went back to first to step on the base.
"He never heard what I got to say," Acta said. "What I wanted to say is you don't make calls based on players' reactions, on the guy going back. You make calls on what you see and what happened. I became a little mad just because he walked off on me. I think that's disrespectful."
Fortunately for the Tribe, the play had little effect on the final outcome.
And Acta watched the final flourish unfold in the clubhouse with the game being broadcast nationally.
Buchholz, who logged 7 1/3 impressive frames, relinquished a leadoff single to Jack Hannahan in the eighth. Three batters later, Brantley pulled a pitch from the hard-throwing Bard into right field for a run-scoring single that knotted the score at 2.
Brantley advanced to second base on the play.
That presented the perfect situation for Cabrera.
"Cabrera's seeing the ball really well right now," Bard said. "He's hitting pretty much anything."
Bard gave him a heater to the outside corner, and Cabrera did not miss.
"I'm just trying to put the ball in play," Cabrera said. "I'm feeling really good."
Good enough to be the hero once again.
"He's taking over the reins right now," Brantley said.