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New York at Cleveland

W: C. Sabathia (1-0) L: C. Wang (0-1)
HR: NYY - J. Damon (1), R. Cano (1)   CLE - A. Cabrera (1), V. Martinez (1), T. Hafner (1), R. Garko (1)

Indians bail out C.C. by clobbering Yankees in playoff opener

CBSSports.com wire reports

CLEVELAND -- At times, it looked like 1995 again. Or 1997. Or 1954. Or 1948.

Back in the playoffs after a six-year absence, the Cleveland Indians came out swinging like Octobers past.

C.C. Sabathia recovered after giving up a homer on his fifth pitch, Kenny Lofton drove in four runs and Cleveland homered four times to stun the New York Yankees 12-3 in their AL playoff opener Thursday night.

On an unusually warm night that felt more Indian summer than fall, the AL Central champions looked as though they just might be the team to beat as they chase their first World Series title in 59 years.

"They just were hitting everything," Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said. "Even their outs were hard."

A-Rod will have to wait at least another day to repair his tarnished postseason image. Sabathia and three Cleveland relievers silenced his powerful bat.

On Friday, the Yankees turn to Andy Pettitte, who is 14-9 in postseason play. Fausto Carmona, Cleveland's other 19-game winner, will oppose him.

"Let's just get over it and lick our wounds and then we'll figure it out," New York manager Joe Torre said.

The Indians' playoff inexperience was never a factor.

Cleveland's kids were all right.

"They just went out there and played the game," said Lofton, a postseason veteran. "You don't have to have a whole lot of experience to understand that the game hasn't changed. That's what I've been talking to the guys about: Go out there and play baseball."

Playoff newcomer Victor Martinez hit a two-run homer and rookie Asdrubal Cabrera had a solo shot off ineffective starter Chien-Ming Wang. Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko homered later, and the Indians knocked the Bronx Bombers flat.

The 40-year-old Lofton raced around the bases the way he did in two previous stints with Cleveland. Casey Blake added two RBI for the Indians, energized by a towel-waving crowd eager for more.

A few Cleveland fans even turned on Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, a devoted New York fan who boldly came to Jacobs Field wearing a Yankees cap. Early on, fans sitting near James behind home plate chanted "Take off the cap," and by the sixth inning, he did.

When Hafner's homer off Ross Ohlendorf gave the Indians a 10-3 lead, James turned to his entourage and ordered an exit.

The Yankees, 6-0 against the Indians during the regular season, went nearly as fast. Down 4-3 in the fifth, they managed only a meaningless, two-out single in the ninth after Cleveland broke away.

"We needed to stop them," said Johnny Damon, who hit a disputed homer leading off the game. "We couldn't stop their offense. Everything they were hitting went out of the park. You definitely don't want to see that happen in the first game."

Indians manager Eric Wedge, another playoff first-timer, was prepared to ride Sabathia as long as needed. If that meant 120 or 130 pitches, Wedge was willing to let his left-hander push his limit.

Wedge never could have imagined that would come after five innings.

Not only did Sabathia, who entered 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA in his career against New York, have to deal with New York's awesome lineup, but plate umpire Bruce Froemming's strike zone was paper thin for the left-hander, who battled through 114 pitches, allowing three runs and four hits in five innings.

"He had to work about as hard as he's ever had to work," Wedge said.

Sabathia walked six (his total for September), allowed two homers -- both to lefties -- and had one of his worst outings all season.

"He bent but he didn't break," Torre said.

The Yankees were facing Sabathia for the first time in three years, and unless they get their offense untracked in the next few days, it might be many more months before they see him again.

New York has lost four straight playoff games and 11 of 14 overall dating to their 2004 AL championship series collapse against Boston, a skid rarely seen for a decorated franchise that hasn't added to its collection of 26 World Series titles since 2000.

Rodriguez's hopes of following up a certain MVP season with a glittering postseason is on hold. He went 0-for-2 and walked twice, once intentionally in the fifth when Sabathia wriggled out of a serious jam.

A-Rod dropped to 4-for-43 (.093) with no RBI in his last 13 postseason games.

The Yankees' best chance was in the fifth. Trailing 4-3, they put runners at second and third with one out against Sabathia. With first base open, he intentionally walked Rodriguez to face Jorge Posada.

Posada got ahead 3-0 in the count, then fouled off a pitch. Sabathia fought back for a strikeout.

Then, he got behind 2-0 to Hideki Matsui before getting the Yankees' DH to pop to shortstop, ending New York's last rally.

"Posada helped me out a little bit," Sabathia said, "and I was able to get out of it. These guys swung the bats and picked me up huge."

The Indians put it away with five runs in their half of the fifth, the big blows coming on Martinez's two-run homer off Wang, a 19-game winner during the regular season, and Blake's two-run double, a shot that sent the crowd of 44,608 into a frenzy.

The moment sent Lofton, traded back in July for his third stint with Cleveland, back to '95, when he was the speedy leadoff catalyst on a team with Albert Belle, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez that made it to the Series.

"I was trying to tell these guys how exciting it was in '95," Lofton said. "I said if we start winning, and doing things, the crowd is going to get excited."

Damon led off the game with a shot to right initially ruled foul by umpire Jim Wolf, who might have lost sight of the ball in the sun's glare.

After an infield meeting, several umpires twirled their fingers to indicate a homer as Damon, who had stayed on the field during the discussion, crossed home plate.

After Wang got two outs in the bottom half on three pitches, he walked Hafner and gave up a single to Martinez. Garko followed with an RBI single and Peralta drew a walk following a nine-pitch at-bat.

Lofton then delivered a two-run single to make it 3-1, and the Indians barely looked back.


  • Lofton got his 33rd steal in the postseason, tying Rickey Henderson for the career record.
  • Lofton hadn't driven in four runs in a game since 2001.
  • The Indians tied a club postseason record with four homers. They've now done it three times, twice in 1998.
  • Pettitte is 0-3 with a 9.73 ERA in three postseason starts against Cleveland.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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C.C. Sabathia's offense picks him up after he issues all three runs and six walks in five innings.
C.C. Sabathia's offense picks him up after he issues all three runs and six walks in five innings. (AP)

Players of the Game

V. Martinez
AB 5
R 2
H 3
HR 1

K. Lofton
AB 4
R 1
H 3
HR 0

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New York Yankees
Johnny Damon, LF4111122 .250
Derek Jeter, SS4000012 .000
Bobby Abreu, RF2011210 .500
Alex Rodriguez, 3B2000201 .000
Jorge Posada, C4000025 .000
Hideki Matsui, DH4000025 .000
Robinson Cano, 2B3111110 .333
Melky Cabrera, CF4000011 .000
Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B1000001 .000
   a- Shelley Duncan, PH-1B2110010 .500
   b- Jason Giambi, PH10100001.000
a-singled for Mientkiewicz in the 5th
b-singled for Duncan in the 9th
2B - Bobby Abreu (1, Sabathia)
HR - Johnny Damon (1, Sabathia), Robinson Cano (1, Sabathia)
RBI - Johnny Damon (1), Bobby Abreu (1), Robinson Cano (1)
2-OUT RBI - Robinson Cano (1)
CS - Robinson Cano (1, 2nd base by Sabathia/Martinez)
Team LOB - 7
Outfield Assists - Melky Cabrera 1
DP - Jeter-Mientkiewicz
New York Yankees
Chien-Ming Wang (L,0-1) 4.2988422 15.43
Ross Ohlendorf 1433101 27.00
Jose Veras 0.1000000 0.00
Phil Hughes 2111021 4.50
HBP - Sizemore (by Chien-Ming Wang), Garko (by Ross Ohlendorf)
Pitches-Strikes - Chien-Ming Wang 94-58, Ross Ohlendorf 28-17, Jose Veras 4-2, Phil Hughes 31-24
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chien-Ming Wang 4-5, Ross Ohlendorf 2-1
Batters Faced - Chien-Ming Wang 25, Ross Ohlendorf 9, Jose Veras 1, Phil Hughes 7
Cleveland Indians
Grady Sizemore, CF4010012 .250
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B4211112 .250
Travis Hafner, DH4211101 .250
Victor Martinez, C5232000 .600
Ryan Garko, 1B4332000 .750
Jhonny Peralta, SS4110103 .250
Kenny Lofton, LF4134000 .750
Franklin Gutierrez, RF2100202 .000
Casey Blake, 3B4012021 .250
2B - Victor Martinez (1, Ohlendorf), Jhonny Peralta (1, Wang), Kenny Lofton (1, Ohlendorf), Casey Blake (1, Ohlendorf)
HR - Asdrubal Cabrera (1, Wang), Travis Hafner (1, Ohlendorf), Victor Martinez (1, Wang), Ryan Garko (1, Hughes)
RBI - Asdrubal Cabrera (1), Travis Hafner (1), Victor Martinez 2 (2), Ryan Garko 2 (2), Kenny Lofton 4 (4), Casey Blake 2 (2)
2-OUT RBI - Ryan Garko 2 (2), Kenny Lofton 4 (4), Casey Blake 2 (2)
SB - Kenny Lofton (1, 2nd base off Ohlendorf/Posada)
CS - Grady Sizemore (1, 2nd base by Wang/Posada)
Team LOB - 6
Cleveland Indians
C.C. Sabathia (W,1-0) 5433652 5.40
Rafael Perez 2000040 0.00
Jensen Lewis 1000010 0.00
Rafael Betancourt 1100010 0.00
IBB - Rodriguez by C.C. Sabathia
Pitches-Strikes - C.C. Sabathia 114-62, Rafael Perez 31-21, Jensen Lewis 8-7, Rafael Betancourt 22-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - C.C. Sabathia 1-8, Rafael Perez 1-1
Batters Faced - C.C. Sabathia 24, Rafael Perez 6, Jensen Lewis 3, Rafael Betancourt 4
Game Information
Attendance - 44608
Game Time - 3:44
Temperature - 73
Umpires - Home - Bruce Froemming, First Base - Laz Diaz, Second Base - Ron Kulpa, Third Base - Field Culbreth