10/14/07 5:25 PM ET
Notes: Nixon remains Tribe fixture
Outfielder not just a reserve, but leadership is invaluable
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
The combination only added to the moment of delivering the 11th-inning game-winning single against the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
"I think we all know how a player can cross over to the dark side, but I fully expect that I'm the enemy coming in here," Nixon said early Sunday morning at Fenway before the Indians returned to Cleveland. "You know, I had some great years here in Boston, and I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to play here.
"But I'm also grateful to have the opportunity to play here in Cleveland, considering what happened to me in the offseason."
Nixon started the season as the Indians' right fielder but has relinquished that role to Gutierrez. Regardless, Nixon hit .289 in the second half in his diminished role and retains a prominent role as a leader in the Indians clubhouse.
"Whether playing time has been cut or not, I feel it's important for me to keep these guys upbeat," he said. "This is a great opportunity, playing in the postseason. I'm so proud of these guys for the way that they've persevered throughout the entire year. No one was picking us to win, the way they persevered in New York [during the ALDS] in a hostile atmosphere, and also coming in here to Fenway Park.
"That's special when you've got a young ballclub, because sometimes they might not be smart enough to realize, oh, where we are at right now. They're just worried about playing baseball, and they're having fun at it."
Indians manager Eric Wedge said Nixon has taught some of his young players what it means to be a leader.
"If you're going to be a leader, it's strength and personality, it's presence. You've got to be vocal, you've got to be strongest when other people are sometimes at their weakest, and you've got to pick people up," Wedge said. "We've been trying to develop these core players into leaders, and I think they've come a long way, but I think what Trot has done is put them over the top.
"Victor Martinez, C.C. [Sabathia], up the middle, Grady Sizemore ... are some of these guys that have been here [have developed into leaders]. You've got to have the presence and personality to do that, and [Trot's] really given us a big boost with that this year, and it's helped us toughen up a little bit."
Hafner singled with two out in the ninth against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Josh Barfield replaced Hafner as a pinch-runner and stole second. But the Red Sox walked Victor Martinez, and Ryan Garko grounded out sharply to third baseman Mike Lowell to end the inning.
"It's more about us being on the road and late in the ballgame," Wedge said. "I mean, we knew we were running thin in our bullpen, and I felt like if we could get a runner to second base, we're one single away from taking the lead there. We were able to get Barfield there.
"I knew they were going to walk Victor, but in that particular matchup with Garko, I felt pretty good about it. He hit the ball hard. It's tough to get a ball past that third baseman from Boston, [Mike] Lowell, he's one of the best in the game defensively out there. We just missed it, but you always have to work hard to try to win the ballgame. You can't be defensive about it, and you're not trying not to lose."
Slumpbuster? Batting coach Derek Shelton said Gutierrez might have been letting the spotlight weigh on him. Gutierrez, who's struggled [3-for-20 for a .150 average] during the postseason, did showcase his potential with a three-run homer in the Tribe's seven-run 11th inning in Game 2.
Shelton looked at the homer as an encouraging sign for Gutierrez.
"Sometimes, one hit can relieve a lot of tension," Shelton said.
Tribe tidbits: Al Roker, one of the hosts of NBC's "The Today Show," will throw out the first pitch Monday. Roker once worked as a weatherman in Cleveland. ... Ashley Nemeh, a sophomore at Case Western Reserve University, will sing the national anthem before the game and, in the seventh inning, "God Bless America."
On this date: In 2001, the last time the Indians made the playoffs, right-hander Bartolo Colon couldn't hold a 1-0 lead against the Mariners at The Jake. Colon gave up three runs in the seventh inning, and the Tribe went on to lose the Game 4 of the American League Division Series, 6-2. The next day, the Tribe was eliminated from the series with a 3-1 loss at Safeco Field.
On deck: Right-hander Jake Westbrook will start Game 3 at Jacobs Field on Monday. Westbrook will be facing Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka in a game set to start at 7 p.m. ET.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. National writer Justice Hill contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.