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10/06/07 11:09 PM ET
Wedge seems to have upper hand
Despite relative inexperience in postseason, Tribe on verge
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- One manager came into the current American League Division Series with 13 years of playoff experience, and the other, well, he's a first-timer to October. But based on the first two games, both Tribe victories, the freshman, Eric Wedge, seems to have had the decided edge, pushing all the right buttons as the Indians head into Game 3 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday looking for a sweep in the best-of-five series. Joe Torre, as he has in recent years, has been wringing his hands. The Yanks, winners of four World Series under Torre, are 3-12 in the postseason since Game 3 of the 2004 AL Championship Series against Boston when they owned a 3-0 lead and then suffered a collapse of historic proportions. "You've got to trust your ability," Torre said about the Yankees recent playoff foibles, which have thus far extended into the current postseason. "Do I feel it's unfair? I say that's immaterial. It's what we need to do. And I think we have to concern ourselves with our perception as opposed to what other people think we should accomplish." Easier said than done. The current series has presented the ultimate in Major League Baseball's recent David vs. Goliath scenarios. It's big market (New York) against smaller market (Cleveland). Big payroll ($200 million for the Yankees) vs. small payroll ($61 million for the Indians). Lots of World Series titles (26 for the Yankees, but none since 2000) against few World Series titles (two, but none since 1948). But this year, David seems to have the better pitching and a manager adept at using it. In Game 1, instead of pushing starter C.C. Sabathia, who was erratic and had thrown 114 pitches through five innings, Wedge went with the bullpen early. He then got four scoreless innings out of left-hander Rafael Perez and right-handers Jensen Lewis and Rafael Betancourt as the Indians built up a big lead and won, 12-3. "When we talked about it before the game what we ask of our [starter] is to give us a chance to win the ballgame," Wedge said that night. "When the starting pitcher is done, we want him to have a chance to win the ballgame. He did every bit of that. I felt it was big, the job that Rafael Perez did. And then Lewis pitched well, Betancourt had to work for it a little -- he hadn't pitched for five days. I was very pleased with the effort of our bullpen and the fact we kept going offensively." In contrast, during the same game, Torre had to sub out the woeful Chin-Ming Wang in the fifth inning when matters still were not completely out of hand. Instead of using rookie Phillip Hughes early, which he eventually did in the seventh inning, Torre sent in relatively untapped Russ Ohlendorf and Jose Veras. By the time Hughes came in, the game was out of reach.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.