© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
NEW YORK -- Who do these Indians think they are, messing with the previously scripted Red Sox-Yankees drama?
This wasn't how the ALCS was to look. The series was to be another painstaking, titanic struggle between the game's most free-spending clubs.
Somehow, the team with the $70 million payroll snuck into the party.
Then again, the Indians certainly earned their way to the door.
"You don't get to this point in the American League by accident," said general manager Mark Shapiro, after the Tribe had wrapped up a 3-1 win over the Yankees in the ALDS. "The last two teams standing in the American League are both going to be very good teams."
If nothing else, the Indians have already done a fine service to those who want to be spared from the media salivation over another Red Sox-Yankees ALCS.
"I can't say I'm tired of it, because those guys play hard all year," Tribe ace C.C. Sabathia said. "But it's definitely nice to see us in it."
Simply getting here isn't the Indians' only goal, of course. They will be gunning for the organization's first World Series appearance since 1997 and third since 1995.
And having finished off the Yanks in Game 4 on Monday night, the Indians have afforded themselves the luxury of having both Sabathia and fellow 19-game winner Fausto Carmona fully rested and ready to roll in Games 1 and 2, respectively.
"We've got two big horses at the top," Shapiro said. "We're going to put up a fight. You can bet on that."
And this is one fight that will include quite a bit of friendly fire.
For one, the series will reunite the Indians with former outfielder Coco Crisp -- the man shipped off in a controversial trade before the 2006 season that has yet to bring about the intended results for either club.
It will also reunite the Tribe with former farm director John Farrell, who became the pitching coach of the Red Sox this season. That reunion is particularly interesting, given that it was Farrell who oversaw the development of many of the young players who powered the Tribe into this enviable position.
Shapiro is also quite friendly with Red Sox manager Terry Francona, a former special assistant in the Tribe front office, and Boston GM Theo Epstein.
"We've got good friends over there," Shapiro said, "and they know they're going to be in for a fight."
As the ALDS series against the Yankees proved, the results of regular-season fights between two clubs get thrown out the window in October.
Regardless, how the Indians fared against the Red Sox this year is at least worth mentioning. The Tribe went 2-5 overall, including a 1-2 mark in Fenway Park on May 28-30 and a 1-3 record at Jacobs Field on July 23-26.
Red Sox pitching was particularly perplexing for the Indians' bats. They hit a grand total of .223 in the seven games, scoring three runs or less in five of the seven.
Five different Boston pitchers -- Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and reliever Julian Tavarez -- recorded wins in the season series. Staff ace and Game 1 starter Beckett went 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts, and left-handed setup man Hideki Okajima didn't allow either a hit or a run in any of his three innings of work over three appearances.
The Indians' pitching wasn't too shabby, either, regardless of the end results. Cliff Lee got beat up twice, to the tune of a 10.00 ERA, but he won't be a factor in this series. Jake Westbrook, currently expected to pitch Game 3 at Jacobs Field, went 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA, but Sabathia (0-1, 1.29 ERA), Carmona (1-0, 0.00) and Paul Byrd (1-0, 1.50) all fared well in one start each. Sabathia only took a loss because the Tribe bats were blanked in their efforts to support him.
Having Sabathia and Carmona going in Games 1 and 2 at Fenway is an asset, but the same certainly can't be said of facing Beckett and Schilling, who are coming off a pair of gems in the ALDS against the Angels.
The Indians, then, don't have long to bask in the glow of their ability to bring down the Yankees.
"It doesn't get any easier," Sabathia said. "That [Boston] lineup is just as strong. We just need to go out and keep playing hard."
Playing hard in the ALDS didn't prove to be an issue for the Indians, who, in the days leading up to the series, heard all about their 0-6 regular-season record against the Yanks and saw countless talking heads in the media predict them to fall.
Expect more of the same as the ALCS dawns.
And expect the Indians to enjoy every minute of it.
"That's how we like it," center fielder Grady Sizemore said. "That's fine. We don't care what the outside world is thinking."