CLEVELAND - The domination came not from the mound, which had been the pregame consensus, but from the plate. The Indians more than survived a shaky outing by Cy Young candidate C.C. Sabathia in doing to the Yankees what the Tigers did to them last year and the Angels the year before: pummel them in the postseason.
The result was an eye-opening American League Division Series-opening 12-3 victory last night for the Tribe, who got homers from Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, Ryan Garko, and Asdrubal Cabrera while strafing celebrated Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang for nine hits and eight runs before making their 15th out. The efficient Indians pounded out 14 hits - Kenny Lofton, Garko, and Martinez each had three - and every one of their starters reached base before the team made its 11th out. Cleveland looked a lot more like the team that had led the AL in most offensive categories this season, not the Yankees, who managed only five hits - one in the final 4 2/3 innings.
"They did a better job in just about every aspect of the game," saluted Yankees manager Joe Torre. "No excuses. We got our rear ends kicked."
Or, as Alex (0 for 2) Rodriguez observed, "It was a knockout. But it's only one game."
The Indians blew this one open with a five-run fifth, shortly after the resolute Sabathia, who did not have his "A" game, wiggled out of a big jam in the top of the inning. The uprising made it 9-3, and the Indians were on their way to their first win of the season over the Yankees (after six losses) and the lead in the best-of-five series. Game 2 is tonight, and bear this in mind: In their last seven Division Series, the Yankees have never lost a series after losing the first game - or won one after winning the first game.
While his mates were pounding the ball all over and out of the Jake, Sabathia was the anti-Beckett. He walked six - one intentionally - a shocking number, given that he averaged only 1.4 walks per nine innings and had not walked more than three in any game this season. He gave up a leadoff homer to Johnny Damon. He threw 114 pitches in only five innings. And he got the win.
The key stretch came in the fifth. Cleveland had taken a 4-2 lead, but the Yankees opened the fifth with a Shelley Duncan single and a Damon walk. Derek Jeter (0 for 4) lined to right, but OBP machine Bobby Abreu sliced a double down the left-field line to make it 4-3. That would be New York's last hit until a meaningless Jason Giambi single with two outs in the ninth.
A-Rod was walked on purpose, loading the bases, and Sabathia promptly went to 3-0 on Jorge Posada.
"I caught a break when he swung at the 3-0," said Sabathia, who said he thought the pitch was a good one. "After that, I knew I had to make two good pitches and maybe I'd get a popup or a strikeout." He got the K. Then the struggling Hideki Matsui popped harmlessly to short to end the inning. Said A-Rod, "We did a great job of working the counts. We just couldn't deliver the final punch."
They let a struggling Sabathia off the hook and they knew it. As for the Indians' ace, "I just wanted to get us back into the dugout with the lead," he said. He would pitch no more.
"When things get a little bit crazy, you have to be the coolest cat in the house," Indians manager Eric Wedge said of Sabathia's enduring the fifth. "I think that's what you saw."
Then came the deluge against Wang in the bottom of the inning and, for all intents and purposes, the end of competition for the evening. Wang never got his pitches down and his 4 2/3-inning stint was his second shortest of the season. "He needs to be down," Torre said. "If he's not, you're flirting with danger."
In the fifth, Cabrera, who homered in the third, led off with a walk and came home one out later on Martinez's moon shot to right. After a Garko ground out, it seemed Wang might escape with only the two runs. But Jhonny Peralta sliced a broken-bat double to right and Lofton, who had driven in two runs in the first, drove him home with a single. That ended Wang's night, and it wasn't one he'll keep for the family album.
In came rookie reliever Ross Ohlendorf, who walked Franklin Gutierrez (after Lofton stole second with such a jump that Posada didn't even bother to throw). Casey Blake then doubled to right, clearing the bases, and it was 9-3. Torre threw out his rookies, and predictably, they had their moments as well. Hafner took Ohlendorf deep in the sixth, and Garko struck off Phil Hughes in the eighth. Alas, Hughes was able to do what none of the other Yankees pitchers could do - record a 1-2-3 inning (in the seventh).
And the vaunted Yankee attack? Jeter, Rodriguez, Posada, and Matsui were a combined 0 for 14. Posada fanned twice in key situations. Matsui also fanned twice and didn't get the ball out of the infield. Each left five men on base. A-Rod's two outs were popups. Torre said he intended to stick with the struggling Matsui, who hit .185 in September.
Game 1 belonged to the hosts, pure and simple.
Peter May can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.