Wedge, Sabathia, Lofton interview
Members of the Indians discuss Game 1 victory
Did it seem like your offense kind of fed off C.C.'s ability to bend and not break in the first and fifth innings there?
ERIC WEDGE: That was big. I think offensively, I think both teams did a pretty good job of making the opposing pitcher work. There was a lot of hunting going on up there at home plate. And staying away from sinkers or fastballs just off or just down and looking for good pitches to hit.
I think we just did a little bit better job tonight of capitalizing on those opportunities. And C.C. was able to work through it and grind it out. 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. But we had multiple people step up on the offensive side tonight.
How about Kenny Lofton and his experience and how important it is here in the playoffs?
ERIC WEDGE: Well, Kenny is a big game player, and he's really given us a boost in the bottom of our lineup. 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. It took people ahead of him to do what they needed to do to keep it moving on down the line, if you will.
But 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. So it really allows us to lengthen our lineup. Gives us more opportunities to take advantage when we do get something going different times of the ball game.
Two questions on C.C. First talk about him getting out of that fifth inning jam and, more generally, what it says about him to get the win when he clearly didn't have his best stuff?
ERIC WEDGE: He had to battle. I think he was a little amped up earlier on. You've got such great competitors at this level. We've got a lot of people that have been to this part of the season before and it's been a long time for C.C. He was 19, 20 years old last time he did it. Clearly different person back then.
But for him to really buckle down and get through that, that was arguably the turning point of the game for us. If I recall, it was a 3-0 count and bases loaded, one out. Pretty good hitters coming. He was able to work his way through it. And at that point in time he was over 100 pitches. And he was working hard getting after it.
So like somebody else mentioned, he bent but he didn't break. He understood when he needed to slow himself down. I felt like in the middle innings he did a good job of settling in.
But that worked away from him a little bit, but he never let it get away from him. When we talked about before the game what we ask our guy is to give us a chance to win the ball game. When the starting pitcher is done, we want him to have a chance to win the ball game. He did every bit of that today.
Eric, other than C.C.'s somewhat struggles tonight, could you have scripted it any better to get the bullpen guys their feet wet, the young guys? And, again, it didn't seem like the guys who have not been in the post season before, the pressure didn't get to them, to get that all out of the way?
ERIC WEDGE: I felt it was big, the job that Rafael Perez did tonight, particularly after us scoring some runs and separating a bit for Rafael to go out there and another one of our younger kids, go out there and control the ball game not for one but for two innings, the second was at the top of their order.
And then Lewis pitched well, Betancourt had to work for it a little. But he hadn't pitched for five days. He needed to pitch tonight. I was very pleased with the effort of our bullpen and the fact we kept going offensively.
Do you get a sense that now with Carmona pitching tomorrow and another home game that you can take control of this series by playing the same way you did tonight?
ERIC WEDGE: I don't look at things in those regards. When I work my thought process through, it's more specific. It's about what we need to do tomorrow to prepare. We've got to turn the page and do some work tonight and prepare tomorrow and just make sure that these guys come out here and just take the same approach to the game that they took tonight and they've been doing for quite a while now.
So in one sense, yes, we want them to just keep pushing and keep doing what they've been doing, but second to that, now we've got to come out and prepare for a different starting pitcher and make sure our guy is ready to go and start all over.
After that first inning, controversial home run, I was wondering, it could have set the tone for the Yankees or could have been a rallying cry for you guys. What was the mentality of the clubhouse at that particular point in time?
ERIC WEDGE: One run, first hitter of the game. We've got three hours ahead of you at least. And so whether we got that call or didn't get that call, it wasn't going to be a tremendous impact on the ball game.
The most important thing for us was not to overreact to it one way or the other. I do mean that, one way or the other. So you keep pitching, did a good job of working his way through that inning, and I was really pleased with the way we battled through that first inning.
I think he had a couple of outs with only four or five pitches thrown, then next thing you know he's throwing 25 or 26 with some pretty good bats from our guys. So that was tremendous to come back like that.
Did you say anything or did anything really need to be said?
ERIC WEDGE: Nothing needed to be said at that time. There are certain junctures, but that wouldn't be one of them.
They hadn't seen C.C. in about three years, and back then at times he would have meltdowns. Did we see a difference between three years ago C.C. and tonight, him getting out of those jams in the first and fifth?
ERIC WEDGE: That's a great question. That's the difference if you look at that first inning and you look at that fifth inning, because you can't let it domino on you.
And when things are getting a little bit crazy, that's when you need to be the coolest cat in the house, so to speak. When you have that type of ability and you've had the year and the career he's had, there's every reason in the world for him to be that confident and to show that poise out there. I think that's what you saw.
C.C., can you talk about getting out of that one out jam there in the fifth and what you had to do to get out of that?
C.C. SABATHIA: That was a big spot in the game I felt. I was just thinking to myself, just try to make sure we end this inning with the lead. And I was able to try to work out of it. Posada helped me out a little bit by swinging at the 3-0 pitch and I was able to get out of it.
You guys are two of the playoff veterans on this team. And, Kenny, after you guys clinched the division you talked about how the kids didn't even know how to pop the cork. Did you see any of them growing up out there tonight in their first post season experience?
KENNY LOFTON: I think the biggest thing is they went out and played the game. That helps you out. 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, just go out there and just play the game of baseball.
And I think getting the game under their belt is going to help them out a lot.
Feel like old times out there, Kenny, the crowd, the runs, take you back 10 years?
KENNY LOFTON: Oh, yeah, it was kind of exciting. It was just the fact that I was trying to tell these guys that in '95 how exciting the crowd was. I said if we start winning and doing things, the crowd is going to get excited. And the crowd hasn't gotten excited for the playoffs since 2001. Now they're back in that mode again. So it's going to be fun.
C.C., two things. For you, you hadn't faced the Yankees in three years. The maturity in the past, you would have a meltdown when things weren't going right, and tonight the first and fifth inning you were able to control your emotions. Could you talk about your maturity there, and also not having your best stuff and still getting a win today?
C.C. SABATHIA: I can't contribute anything I done to getting the win. They came out, swung the bats and picked me up huge. After that first inning they scored the three runs, and I just felt really good and relaxed. First and fifth were tough. I said to myself, make pitches, try to throw strikes and get us in the dugout with the lead. And I was fortunate to do that and then the guys just did it after that.
How much was it command and how much did you feel that maybe you were squeezed a little bit on the strike?
C.C. SABATHIA: It was command. Bruce did a great job behind the plate. I was fired up. I was trying not to throw hard and I looked up there a couple of times and I was throwing 97. I was like, just calm down, try to throw strikes. But it worked out, like I said. Matsui got the popup. Struck out Posada in the fifth. And everything turned out to be good tonight.
Kenny, you saw C.C. when he was just a kid. Maybe you can comment on his growth and the growth you've seen playing with him now?
KENNY LOFTON: When I first saw C.C. I knew he was unpolished and you knew he was going to get better. I think tonight was just a case of him being overexcited. It's a case where you get a guy, his first playoff start. You kind of get geared up. And sometimes you get overamped and I think that's what was going on. He was so excited. He was trying to get out there. I'm like, C.C., we've got time, the game doesn't start until 6:30, 7:00. Just relax. That's what it was. He was so fired up about getting out there, just to start the game.
But right now at this point he got the first one out of the way.
Kenny, is it additionally rewarding for you when you have a night like this against a former team?
KENNY LOFTON: It's always good to face the team that you played for before and go out there and show them that I still can do it. It was pretty exciting going out there and just playing the game of baseball.
Kenny, was it extra rewarding tonight because you've had happier years than you had in New York?
KENNY LOFTON: No. It's not something that you try to compare. It was a case where I was over there trying to get a ring and I almost got a ring. It didn't happen. But that's my biggest thing right now. I'm trying to get a ring.
All that stuff that happened in the past is the past. And I was in New York, Philly, I can name them all, but I was trying to get a ring. (Laughter) that's what I look at. I look at trying to get a ring.
Sort of on the flip side of that, you're in the playoffs almost every year but tonight being back in Cleveland and the playoffs the first time since '01, was it a little special?
KENNY LOFTON: Yeah, it was a little special. 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. I go out 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.
Looked like you had the Yankees off balance most of the night, were you changing speeds? Was that what you were doing?
C.C. SABATHIA: I was trying to change speeds, making sure I had command of both sides of the plate. I think that was the biggest thing is just making sure that I established it with all those guys and having them think about it. And I think that's the reason why you seen so many popups and strikeouts. I threw a lot of pitches. Had six or seven walks. So I was just trying to make sure that I had both sides of the plate, the command, and go out there and attack the strike zone.
Kenny, the importance of this game tonight, during the season they got swept 6-0 by the Yankees. To win tonight, to put that to rest and for the young kids to come through like they did, can you talk about what maybe that means in the clubhouse after tonight's win?
KENNY LOFTON: I think it's big, because at this point we was all talking about a regular season, regular season. The playoffs is a whole different atmosphere. I said the atmosphere is going to change. The situation is going to change. Once you go out there and you look at it, you say you know what? We're in the playoffs just like they are.
And I think these guys understood that, that you know what happened in the past, it's a wash. Now you start from scratch. You start from day one. And we look at today as day one and we've got this win out. So these guys feel like, okay, that is true. It's true what he was saying the whole time.
Just a little off beat, did it take some convincing for you to agree to the DHL commercial and how do you think it turned out?
KENNY LOFTON: It was pretty obvious. Shipping all over the place and all the different cities, and who was the only guy they could call on? Me (Laughter). I've been to every city there is in the States, I think. But it was pretty simple.
When you heard them chanting Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, how much momentum did that give you?
KENNY LOFTON: Actually, I hear it but I don't hear it. And I think that's -- I pretty much block it out. I hear it, then once I get in the batter's box, sometimes, sometimes it seems silent out there. So it's kind of awesome. Sometimes you hear it, then once I get in the box I don't hear it no more.
I want to make sure, C.C., do you think that Posada swung at ball four?
C.C. SABATHIA: I don't know if he swung at ball four. But I was a little surprised that he swung. 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.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.