|Been there, won that: Yankees have playoff experience on their side against Indians|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 03 October 2007 14:08|
The big boys from the Bronx have enough World Series rings to fill up a jewelry store's display case. They've owned Octobers, winning 26 championships as the most successful franchise in professional sports.
They've earned their pinstripes in the postseason.
So clearly they have a huge advantage in the first round of these AL playoffs against the Cleveland Indians, a team loaded with young players who have never made a cleat mark on fall baseball's frightening stage.
Derek Jeter, though, has seen his share of fresh-faced playoff teams thrive.
``We lost to Anaheim one year and I don't think they had any experience and went on to win the championship,'' New York's All-Star shortstop said Wednesday. ``We lost to the Florida Marlins and they didn't have any experience. It doesn't make a difference. It's one of those things that if you win they say experience helps and if you don't, then the other team was hungrier.''
Jeter's argument aside, there are 19 Yankees on this year's playoff roster who have played in a total of 606 postseason games. On the other side, the Indians have only eight players with 161 games of playoff practice.
Further, New York's Joe Torre, the winningest manager in postseason history, will fill out a Yankees' lineup card for the 120th time in the playoffs. For Cleveland's Eric Wedge, it will be game No. 1.
But don't expect the Indians or their manager to be rattled.
``Yeah, it a bigger stage and more emphasis is going to be put on it,'' Cleveland closer Joe Borowski said. ``It's tough to say right now how it's going to affect us, but being around this team all year, I can't see it being like this big, oh-my-goodness kind of feeling. I've never seen this team feel like there was a situation where it couldn't achieve or couldn't succeed.
``I don't see it being a huge deal.''
While the Yankees, who were eliminated in four games last year by Detroit in the opening round and haven't won it all since 2000 (sorry, George), have been here more often, they know nothing is guaranteed once the games begin.
Mostly because they went 6-0 against the Indians this season, the wild card-winning Yankees are favored to take care of Cleveland, making its playoff return after a six-year hiatus.
``They smoked us pretty good at home,'' said DH Travis Hafner, who sat out the three-game series at Jacobs Field in August with an injured hamstring. ``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.''
C.C. Sabathia will start Game 1 for the Indians against New York's Chien-Ming Wang, a matchup of 19-game winners who each have a chance to set the tone for their teams in the best-of-five series.
Sabathia is just 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA in his career against New York, but hasn't faced the Yankees since Sept. 1, 2004 - a span that seems like a lifetime ago for the left-hander, who will face a New York lineup with five left-handers.
The 27-year-old held opposing lefties to a .203 average and three homers. More impressively, he walked only four and struck out 75. After pitching in the playoffs as a rookie, he's relishing the chance to do it again.
``This is an unbelievable feeling,'' he said.
Alex Rodriguez can only hope to feel as good.
The Yankees' superstar third baseman has been A-Lightning Rod in past postseasons.
He's 4-for-41 (.098) with no RBIs in his last 12 playoff games, and has not gotten a hit in his last 15 postseason at-bats with runners in scoring position. New York's unforgiving media and those tough-to-please Yankees fans will again dissect every pitch thrown Rodriguez's way.
His teammates have been doing all they can to ease the pressure on Rodriguez, who is a lock to win his third AL MVP award after hitting 54 homers with 156 RBIs. Those numbers won't mean anything when he digs into the batter's box on Thursday and the Jake rumbles with noise.
``It doesn't fall on Alex's shoulders,'' Johnny Damon said. ``We can't rely on Alex to be the man. We have to go out there and do our jobs. It starts with me at the top and goes all the way down to (Doug) Mientkiewicz in the nine hole.
``It falls on this whole team. We win and lose as a team.''
And the Indians feel like they have the better one.
Although they came out on the short end of almost every statistical matchup against New York, Cleveland's players are confident they won't crumble against the Yankees. Their 31-13 record since Aug. 13 - the day after being swept by New York - was baseball's best and they showed poise down the stretch as they ran away with the AL Central.
This won't be the same as playing the Mariners or Royals in September, but Kenny Lofton remembers a Cleveland team that held its own despite a lack of playoff experience.
``Look at us in 1995,'' said Lofton, who was traded back for a third stint with the Indians in July. ``We didn't have many guys with postseason experience and we got to the World Series.''
In the past few days, Lofton, who has played in 84 playoff games - four with the Yankees - has been briefing his teammates on what to expect.
``I've told them to remember that it's just a game,'' he said. ``It's a game and the game doesn't change. The only thing that changes is the result. We've got to look at it as it's another game and another team you're trying to beat, and that's it.''