Friday, October 5, 2007

One Down, Two to Go

All I can say is thank goodness I was there. Last night at Jacobs Field was as good of a sporting expereince as you could have found. Maybe it's because I love this team so much., Maybe it's the 10 year layoff between postseason home games (for me), maybe it was because of the emotions inside me as this was the first Tribe playoff game since the death of my father, a long-suffering die-hard Tribe fan who went to 40 games a year in good times and bad. So I sat there with my wife, my mom, and my brother, living and dying through every pitch through the first five innings. Then it was all relaxation and fun.

C.C. Sabathia didn't have his best stuff. He was "over amped" according to Kenny Lofton, perhaps the night's biggest star. But he gutted his way through five tough innings of control problems and anti-semite Bruce Froemming's ridiculously small strike zone (on both sides). Everyone is talking about the way he wiggled out of the bases-loaded, one out jam in the fifth when the Big C was clearly on fumes. Striking out Jorge Posada after being down 3-0 in the count and getting Hideki Matsui to pop out i'm a 2-0 pitch were huge. But what should not be overlooked was his first inning. Johnny Damon led off with a Home Run. After Derek Jeter popped out, Sabathia walked both Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez. Things looked ugly with Posada and Matsui coming to the plate. Posada K'd and Matsui grounded out. A big first inning could have spelled doom for the Tribe. But the Big C made the pitches when he had too.

The bottom of the fifth was a thing of beauty. The 44,000 plus were at a fever pitch after C.C.'s escape job. It was now 4-3. Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a walk. Travis Hafner flied out, and then boom - Victor Martinez crushed a Chien-Ming Wang meatball into the right-center field bleachers. Just like that, the three run lead was back and the crowd screamed for more. With two down, Jhonny Peralta doubled, bringing Lofton to the plate. With the Jacobs Field crowd chanting "Ken-ny, Ken-ny, Ken-ny," the 40 year old singled back up the middle scoring Peralta for his second two-out RBI hit of the night, giving the Tribe a 7-3 lead and ending Wang's night.

In came Ross Ohlendorf (who?). He promptly walked Franklyn Gutierrez to put two on and two out for "Mr. Clutch," Casey Blake. As Casey doubled down the Right field line, I turned to my brother and said "dad is spinning in his grave!" Nobody hated Casey more than my pops. But again, I am officially off his back. He came up huge late in the season when the team needed it the most, and his double last night was a back-breaker. With the Tribe now up 9-3, we could relax...a little.

The rest of the night was a bullpen clinic by Rafael Perez, Jenson Lewis, and Rafael Betancourt. Nobody will talk about it, but the three relievers combined to pitch four scoreless innings, allowing just one base runner - Jason Giambi's ninth inning single. After the five run fifth inning, Perez baffled Yankee bats with his nasty spiltter. Lewis needed only eight pitches (seven strikes) to get three straight Yankees in the eight. Betancourt was his usual dominant self. And now the Tribe leads 1-0 in this best-of-five series.


1. You have to scratch your head at Joe Torre deciding to bring in the rookie righty Ohlendorf after Wang was chased. The kid has only pitched 6.1 major league innings and has been up for less than a month. He looked like a deer in headlights. He didn't even bother to look at Kenny Lofton at first and he stole a base without drawing a throw. He walked the free-swinging Franky G, then gave up a double to Blake, scoring two. Then in the sixth, Travis Hafner hit a laser shot to right-center for a solo pizza, Victor Martinez doubled, he hit Ryan Garko, and Lofton had his third RBI hit scoring Garko. A four run lead he entered the game with in the fifth is much different than the eight run lead he left with in the sixth. Especially with the Yankees bats. Wouldn't Luis Vizcaino or starter Phil Hughes have been better options there to hold the Indians at bay?

2. I got the following text from my boy Sean during the game: "Kenny is stealing bases and spraying the ball, the Jake is rocking, and O.J. is in jail. It's the mid-90's again!" Very true. Kenny was the big story last night. He is making GM Mark Shapiro look like a genius. He looked like the Kenny of old last night. He shortened up his swing and delivered THREE big RBI hits, all with two out, and he stole a base. 3-4, 4 RBI, one run scored, one stolen base. Well worth trading a A ball catcher for.

3. Terry Pluto wrote this in his column this morning, but watching Franky G patrol Right field last night was a masterpiece. He made three plays in which I turned to my brother and said "that's a double if Trot Nixon is still out there." He makes it look so easy. Enough cannot be said about his play in the field.

4. I believe it was this reporter who said in his Tribe/Yankees
positional player breakdown about Ryan Garko "I’ve got a feeling his bat will sizzle in this series and he will see a ton of pitches to drive." How does 3-4, 2 RBI, a solo pizza, and two runs scored sound to you?

5. The Yankees love to play long, drawn out, nine inning games. Between C.C.'s wildness, and the tribe scoring three of Wang, the first inning took 38 minutes. I said to my wife, "how's that for a first inning of the first game. It's gonna be a looooong month." Lets hope so. I don't know how I am going to take all of the drama. I literally was sick to my stomach with nerves. My brother and I were like two giant stress balls. My mom asked us both if we were OK several times during the game. All we could say is "this is playoff baseball."

6. As many of you know, Lebron James was at the game last night wearing a Yankees hat. Some say it's no big deal, some say it sacrilege. To me, its a complete slap in the face to the fans of the city that supports and loves Lebron like no athlete in this town since "The Lord" Bernie Kosar. Lebron claims "everyone knows I've always been a Yankee fan." Fine, did you grow up in New York? No. Where did you grow up? Akron. isn't that near Cleveland? Yep. Ok, I guess I can live with that, but to show up at Jacobs Field, sit in the stands with the crowd and wear a Yankee cap is a joke. You'd think his business people would advise him not to wear the hat. Except all of his people are "yes" men who would never tell Lebron what he does is wrong. Peter Gammons lit him up on Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio today. He said "its stupid and immature, and insulting" to all Cleveland fans and that "all Lebron wants is attention and as usual, he got it." I lost a ton of respect for him.

7. I also heard Yankee by play man Michael Kay on with Mike and Mike talking about last night. He of course gave the Indians no credit, sayting that it was a mistake by Torre to go with Wang over Andy Pettitte in Game One. He claimed Pettitte is more suited to face the Tribe bats, who are better fast-ball hitters. Pettitte specializes in nibbling. That is such a cop-out. Wang's sinker wasn't sinking last night, that's the bottom line. If his sinker is on and the Indians don't hit, you think he says the same thing? Its not like Wang is some scrub, he won 19 games.

Here are some links to enjoy:

Pen Could Spell Trouble for Yankees - Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Tribe's Ace at his Best Minus his Best - Bill Livingston, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Lofton Keeps on Ticking, Delivers Huge Performance for Indians - Jerry Crasnick,

Tribal Sin? Lebron Sports Yankee Hat at ALDS

Need a New Perspective? Talk to a Cleveland Fan - Mike Vacarro, NY Post

Tribe & Tribulation - Posada, Matsui let C.C. off the Hook - Mike Vacarro, NY Post

Yanks Fail to KO Sabathia When They Have Chance - Bill Madden, NY Daily News

Choosing Ohlendorf over Villone hurt the Yankees in Game 1 - Jim Baumbach, Newsday

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