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10/06/07 12:11 AM ET
Tribe's lead far from done deal
If any team knows how to escape big deficit, it's Yankees
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- There is plenty of history behind it and just a few recent antecedents, but a 2-0 lead in either a best-of-five or best-of-seven postseason series is not always as secure as it appears.
The Indians have that kind of lead right now as they head into Game 3 of their American League Division Series against the Yankees on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. And the way they played in the first two games at Jacobs Field makes them look like they're going to be very hard to beat.
But Cleveland's Eric Wedge, managing in his first postseason series of any kind, isn't taking anything for granted and believes his team needs to keep the same "win one game at a time" mind-set going into the next game. Roger Clemens is slated to start against Jake Westbrook in a battle of right-handers.
"[Our mind-set] is not going to change. It hasn't changed all year," Wedge said after his club's hard-fought 2-1, 11-inning win on Friday coming off Thursday's 12-3 thrashing of the Bronx Bombers. "We're flying tonight, and we'll let the guys blow off a little steam, work out [Saturday] and we'll come out there with the same approach on Sunday that we've had all year long. This is a great win for us. And you should enjoy it. You work hard to enjoy these types of victories.
"But once these guys get to practice, then they're going to be thinking about Sunday and nothing more. Not Monday, but Sunday."
Game 4, if necessary, is at Yankee Stadium on Monday. A climactic Game 5 is back at The Jake on Wednesday.
The Yankees, in recent years, have worked themselves out of these kind of deficits.
In 1996, the Yanks lost the first two games of the World Series at home to Atlanta, but came back to win it all in six games.
In 1998, the year they won 114 regular-season games, the Yanks trailed the Tribe, 2-1, in the AL Championship Series only to win the next three games and the series.
In 2001, they lost the first two games of the ALDS at home to Oakland, but came back to win the final three games and the series, making them one of four Division Series teams to accomplish the feat since Wild Card play began in 1995. Game 3 at Oakland, a 1-0 Yanks win, turned in the seventh inning on the famous back-handed flip play when Yanks shortstop Derek Jeter nailed Jeremy Giambi standing up at home plate.
"The only thing that's a little bit different than six years ago was that we were going on the road, we lost two at home," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who has been in the dugout for the last 12 years of his team's playoff joy and trauma. "Now, we are going home and the only thing we can do is win one game at a time. I know it's trite and you've heard this stuff before, but that's where we are and that's what we need to do.
"And we can't really worry about Monday or Wednesday until we get one under our belt. So the message, my message is only going to be let's just try to get one and try and change the momentum."
The Indians have won two differently textured games with the same constant: great pitching. The Yankees have scored only four runs on eight hits to bat .121. The Indians pitching staff, conversely, has posted a 1.80 ERA. Their two starters -- C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona -- allowed all four of the runs, which means the Cleveland bullpen remains unscathed.
The Yankees, in contrast, got nothing from starter Chien-Ming Wang on Thursday, but on Friday, veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte, making his 35th postseason start, had a 1-0 lead hold up until Joba Chamberlain and a swarm of gnats aided Cleveland's comeback.
Travis Hafner's bases-loaded single in the 11th inning off Luis Vizcaino, won the ballgame.
Now, with one more win, the Indians have a chance to leap back into the League Championship Series for the first time since losing to the Yanks in 1998. But the Yankees have been at this juncture before. On the road or at Yankee Stadium: The House Ruth Built. Neither team looking past the next game.
"Obviously Yankee Stadium is really a tough place to play," said Hafner, whose club went 0-for-3 there back in April. "So our focus now will turn to Game 3. We'll just try to win that one and take it one game at a time."