CLEVELAND -- For most of the season, the way Pedro Martinez pitches has strained belief. Last night, it strained his back.
Martinez, Boston's sure Cy Young Award winner in the American League, lasted only four innings at chilly Jacobs Field before having to leave the game. The Cleveland Indians took advantage of his absence -- and of a strong start by Bartolo Colon -- to come back for a 3-2 win over the Red Sox in the opening game of this American League Division Series.
Cleveland, down 2-0 when Martinez left, broke a 2-2 tie in the ninth when Travis Fryman singled with one out and the bases loaded.
It was a crushing loss for Boston, which counted on its ace to provide an early advantage in this series.
"We got a break with Pedro getting hurt," said Fryman, who spent most of the season on the disabled list with a knee injury. "You look up there in the sixth inning and you don't see him out there, it gives you a little pick-me-up."
Afterward, the Boston ace spoke of a quick comeback. "I think I'm going to be fine for the next game," said Martinez. "The doctor gave me good news. It's not in my shoulder. My shoulder's strong.
"I'm a quick healer," said Martinez, who went 23-4 this season. "This team can do it with me or without me. Don't scare our fans, I'll be back in the house."
The Red Sox had counted on Martinez to get them off to a good start. In his last 10 regular-season starts, he was 7-1 with a 1.25 ERA.
Last night, he allowed three hits and one walk and struck out three. He was hurt in his only perfect inning.
He said he felt "a burning sensation" after the pitch that struck out Jim Thome, who led off the fourth. Martinez then retired Harold Baines on a pop fly. Martinez covered first base on David Justice's grounder to first baseman Mike Stanley to end the inning.
Although he got the last two outs "I didn't let it [the ball] go," Martinez said.
"I noticed that Pedro's velocity was suddenly down," Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel said. "I turned to Sandy [Alomar] and said, 'There's something wrong with Pedro.' He just wasn't throwing like he had been."
Early on, Martinez allowed runners but no runs.
Manny Ramirez worked to a full count in the first inning, then struck out with Roberto Alomar on second. In the third, Ramirez, this time with runners on first and third, hit the first pitch and grounded into an inning-ending force.
Martinez's injury forced Boston to bring in Derek Lowe, one of the Red Sox's most effective relievers, but certainly no Pedro Martinez.
Even with that bit of poor fortune for the Red Sox, the Indians were still in great danger of losing the playoff opener, something they've had experience doing. Cleveland entered the postseason having lost the first game in each of their eight previous playoff series. The Indians were able to overcome that four times.
Nomar Garciaparra, who led the league in hitting this season, was nearly all the offense Boston needed to take an early advantage. Garciaparra opened the second inning with a home run just over the fence in right-center field. In the fourth, he led off with a double, then scored on a Stanley hit.
Otherwise, Colon was fine. The two hits by Garciaparra, and two allowed to Stanley, were the only four he gave up through the first six innings. They were enough to give Boston a 2-0 lead, however, and the hole began to look deep despite the absence of Martinez.
The second big break of the night for Cleveland, however, was not far away. In the sixth, Boston third baseman John Valentin made a throwing error on a routine ground ball with two out, allowing Ramirez to reach and the inning to stay alive.
Thome made the Red Sox pay when he rocketed the next pitch from Lowe into the right-field stands to tie the game at 2-2.
"I figured he wasn't going to start me off with a fastball over the plate," Thome said. "So I looked for a changeup and there it was."
That merely made things even, but considering where the Indians had been two innings before -- two runs down and facing Pedro Martinez -- Cleveland had taken an emotional lead in what has been an emotional rivalry.
For Lowe, it was the only blemish on the scorecard as he picked up the Red Sox and carried them all the way to the ninth inning. In his first four innings after taking over for Martinez, the ball by Thome was the only one hit out of the infield. Had Ramirez's ball been a groundout, as it should have been, Lowe could have been the hero. Instead, he was pulled after hitting Ramirez to lead off the ninth after retiring seven in a row.
Colon was making his own bid for heroics as he struck out a season high of 11 and gave up only one hit after Stanley's RBI single in the fourth. Colon, unaware he was being yanked, went to the mound for the ninth only to find reliever Paul Shuey standing there. The Jacobs Field crowd gave the young Dominican -- who idolized Martinez -- a standing ovation as he turned and left the field.
After Shuey hit Ramirez, Rheal Cormier came in to pitch. He got one out on a fly ball, but gave up a single to pinch hitter Wil Cordero.
The new reliever, Rich Garces, then loaded the bases on a four-pitch walk to Sexton before allowing the winning hit to Fryman.
The Red Sox, despite dominating the season series against the Indians, have now lost four straight playoff games to them.
"Throughout the year we've won when Pedro is not on the mound," Garciaparra said. "I don't think anybody's heads are down."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
AL Division Series
Boston (Saberhagen 10-6) at Cleveland (Nagy 17-11), 4: 09 p.m., ESPN
Texas (Helling 13-11) at N.Y. Yankees (Pettitte 14-11), 8: 07 p.m., chs. 45, 5