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Lofton turns back the clock in Tribe's Game 1 win

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It was turn back the clock night in Wednesday's Game 1 of the Cleveland Indians' American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, as 40-year-old Kenny Lofton knocked in a postseason career-high four runs in the Tribe's 12-3 rout.

"Well, Kenny is a big-game player, and he's really given us a boost in the bottom of our lineup," said Indians manager Eric Wedge. "We're a team that really has to do it from head to toe. And tonight was a prime example of him coming through in that situation. Certain players have that within them. And Kenny most definitely does. He's done it his entire career. He's been a post- season player throughout. And he's given us a big boost down there."

Lofton, acquired from the Texas Rangers near the trade deadline, also finished 3-for-4 in the win.

"I think the fans still remember me in '95 and all the years that I played in the playoffs here and know the effort that I give all the time," said Lofton. "I go out and give 110 percent. I think the fans recognize that, and it's good to come out here and the fans are all excited and getting fired up about what's going on. This city needs the championship."

Kenny Lofton
Kenny Lofton is reliving his youth.
Lofton, of course, spent the most productive years of his big league career in Cleveland, where he was a four-time Gold Glove winner and earned five of his six All-Star Game nods during his tenure with the Tribe, while also helping the Indians reach the 1995 World Series. He spent the 1997 campaign with Atlanta before returning to Cleveland the following season.

Lofton's brilliant effort overshadowed a shaky performance from AL Cy Young Award contender C.C. Sabathia, who almost did not make it out of the first inning. Following a leadoff home run to Johnny Damon, Sabathia pitched in and out of trouble the entire evening. He lasted five innings and allowed three runs and four hits, but also walked six batters.

"I was fired up," said Sabathia. "I was trying not to throw hard and I looked up there a couple of times and I was throwing 97 (miles per hour). I was like, just calm down, try to throw strikes. But it worked out"

Sabathia, though, was at his best when it got tough. He worked out of a two- on, one-out jam in the first, then in perhaps his best moment of the night, escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fifth after he had already allowed a run to cut New York's deficit to one.

"C.C. was able to work through it and grind it out," Wedge added. "Believe me, he had to work about as hard as he's had to work for that period of time, if you talk about five innings."

Following Bobby Abreu's RBI double that cut Cleveland's lead to 4-3, Alex Rodriguez was intentionally walked to load the bases. Sabathia then went 3-0 on Jorge Posada, but came back to strike him out as it looked like Posada fouled off ball four during the sequence. He then got out of the jam by inducing a pop fly off the bat of Hideki Matsui.

"I don't know if (Posada) swung at ball four. But I was a little surprised that he swung," said Sabathia. "That's what I'm saying. I don't know if it was a strike or ball. I felt like it was a good pitch. He was trying to make something happen for his team. I can't say he swung at ball four. But he swung, fouled it off and it helped me out huge. I came back after that and I felt if I could make two good pitches I can get a popup or strikeout. I ended up getting a strikeout."

The Indians scored seven runs over the next two innings and the rest was history.

YANKS RIGHT WHERE THEY WANT TO BE?

Since 1995, the Yanks are 5-0 in the ALDS when they lose Game 1 and 2-5 when they win the first game. Also, the team that has won Game 1 of any division series the Yanks have played in since 2000 has gone on to lose the series.

INDIANS BULLPEN A LITTLE UNDERRATED

Coming into this series, everyone talked about how good the Yankees bullpen was going to be with the lethal Joba Chamberlain-Mariano Rivera combination, and how it would be just a matter of time before Cleveland closer Joe Borowski blew a save.

Well, Borowski may not be your ideal closer, but he has a pair of setup men in left-hander Rafael Perez and righty Rafael Betancourt that are just downright nasty.

Perez, who shut down the Yankees high-powered lefty bats in his two innings of work last night, pitched to a 1.78 ERA in the regular season, while Betancourt was even better at 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA. Betancourt also pitched a scoreless inning in Wednesday's win.

MURDERER'S ROW?

The high-powered Yankees lineup, which led the majors in just about every offensive category this season, mustered just four hits in the Game 1 loss following Damon's leadoff home run. Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Posada and Matsui were a combined 0-for-14 with five strikeouts and stranded 12 base runners.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, finished 0-for-2 with a pair of walks and is now 4- for-43 (.093) with no RBI in his last 13 postseason games.

LOOKING AHEAD: ANOTHER GAME TWO START FOR PETTITTE

There is nobody else Yankees manager Joe Torre would rather have on the hill tonight than Andy Pettitte, who will match Tom Glavine's major league record with his 35th postseason start.

Tonight will also mark the 13th time in 22 postseason series with the Yankees that Pettitte will start Game 2. He is 6-3 with a 3.01 ERA in those games. In his 10 division series starts in Game 2, Pettitte is 4-3 with a 3.65 ERA.

In his 12 division series starts overall, Pettitte is 5-3 with a 4.26 ERA.

Pettitte's return to New York was a success this season, as the postseason veteran finished 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA, including wins in nine of his last 11 decisions.

The 35-year-old Pettitte, who is 6-7 in his career against the Indians, has appeared in 34 postseason games and is 14-9 with a 4.08 ERA.

Cleveland will hand the ball to 23-year-old Fausto Carmona, who will be making his first-ever postseason start.

The young right-hander bounced back from a miserable 2006 season that saw him go just 1-10 to post 19 wins against only eight losses, while pitching to a 3.06 ERA. He was superb down the stretch for the Tribe, as he went 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA in his final five starts.

However, he was banged around by the Yankees in his two starts against them, going 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA.
Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.
Chris Ruddick


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