Ready to Rumble

The New York Yankees won all six meetings with the Cleveland Indians during the regular season. The AL wild card winners, though, didn't have to face C.C. Sabathia.

With the Indians' Cy Young candidate on the mound, the teams open their AL division series Thursday at Jacobs Field.

New York batted .348 and outscored Cleveland 49-17 to sweep the Indians at home in April and in Cleveland in August. The Yankees have won the last eight meetings between the clubs.

However, despite New York's recent dominance, neither team expects the past to be a major factor.

"You can throw every number out the window," New York shortstop Derek Jeter told the Yankees' official Web site. "All that stuff doesn't make a difference. It really doesn't make a difference.

"You've got to play the games, otherwise you can just sit down and write down on paper who's going to win."

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made New York -120 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 51% of bets for this game have been placed on New York -120 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Cleveland hopes things will be different this time around, with the Indians holding home-field advantage. They also hope to fare better at the plate and the mound in the postseason after hitting just .228 and recording an 8.19 ERA in this season's six losses to New York.

"They smoked us pretty good at home,'' Cleveland designated hitter Travis Hafner said. "But we feel like we're playing our best baseball of the year now and we've got our pitching lined up so we feel pretty good about that.''

The Indians are 31-13 since the most recent sweep at the hands of the Yankees, and having Sabathia on the mound should provide confidence for a team making its first playoff appearance since winning the Central in 2001.

Sabathia was 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA and set career highs for wins, strikeouts (209) and innings (241.0). He's 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his last six starts and 11-4 at Jacobs Field.

"He's done everything you could ask of somebody,'' said Hafner, who is batting .667 (8-for-12) against the Yankees this season. "If we've got a losing streak he seems to stop it. He keeps winning streaks going. He never complains about anything.

"He always seems to do the right things. He's a great example for young players as well. He's got a toughness and competitiveness about him that I think is contagious to the rest of the team.''

The left-hander is 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA in eight career starts against the Yankees, but hasn't faced them since 2004.

"It is weird,'' said Sabathia, who beat Seattle in 2001 in his only postseason start. "But I'll get my chances against them and I'm excited.''

Though New York failed to win the AL East for the first time since 1997, it overcame a 21-29 start and will make its 13th straight postseason appearance.

In New York, Sabathia faces the AL's top offense, which led the league in batting average (.290), homers (201) and slugging (.463).

The Yankees hope AL MVP favorite Alex Rodriguez stays hot after hitting 54 homers with 156 RBIs in the most productive of his four seasons in the Bronx.

"I don't think we would have made the playoffs if it wasn't for him,'' New York's Andy Pettitte said. "Without him, I don't think we would have really had a shot down here at the end.''

Though Rodriguez is a lifetime .280 hitter in 35 playoff games, he is 4-for-41 with no RBIs in his last 12 postseason games. Rodriguez, though, is batting .333 (8-for-24) with six homers and 13 RBIs against Cleveland this season and .412 (7-for-17) against Sabathia.

New York will begin its quest for its first world championship since 2000 with Chien-Ming Wang on the mound.

Like Sabathia, Wang also went 19-7 and had a 3.70 ERA while matching his win total from last season. Wang, who is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in two postseason starts, is 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts against the Indians, but did not face them during the regular season.

The right-hander will face a young, but talented Cleveland offense led by All-Stars Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore and the surging Hafner, who went 8-for-16 with a homer in the final six games of the regular season.

This will be the first postseason meeting between the two teams since New York beat Cleveland 4-2 in the 1998 ALCS.

by: Dave Michaels - – Email Us

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