In one small but significant way, the season will go down as a grand success for the Indians, no matter how the Central Division race plays out.

For the first time in five years, they have won the season series against the Boston Red Sox, and for the first time in 11, they won as many as six games from the denizens of Fenway Park.

It wasn't easy. Thursday night's 7-3 victory was crucial, giving the Tribe a 6-4 edge over the Sox. That's the same number of games the Indians won in 2000, when their record was 6-3. In 2006, they won four out of sevenn from the Red Sox.

"I've never felt better after splitting a series," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We pitched our butts off for the whole series and played our hearts out. We were in every game, so the split was huge."

After taking the opener 9-6, the Tribe lost each of the next two games by one run in the ninth inning.

"It's always important to play well against the good teams," Travis Hafner said. "Of course, every win is big."

Winning the final game of the series kept the Indians relevant in the race, inasmuch as the Detroit Tigers lost to the Texas Rangers, cutting their lead to three games over the Tribe.

After striking out four times Wednesday night, it didn't figure that Carlos Santana would rip the ball all around the yard 24 hours later. But Santana was the Tribe's most productive hitter, delivering a two-run homer in the sixth to snap a 3-3 tie and connecting on two singles, one of which drove in a run to give him three RBI. He also scored twice.

"That's what baseball is all about," Acta said of the game's constant highs and lows. "Carlos came in and took early batting practice today and worked on some stuff to be able to bounce back."