|NEW YORK (AP) — As Joe Borowski and the Cleveland Indians celebrated out on the infield, Joe Torre walked up the tunnel from the New York Yankees dugout toward the clubhouse — perhaps for the final time. Thoughts of another season ending early went through his mind. |
While the Indians’ 6-4 victory in Game 4 Monday night advanced them to an AL championship series matchup with the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees wondered whether it was the end of an era — for Torre, and perhaps Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, too.
George Steinbrenner’s title lust remains unsatisfied, and Torre might be swept out. He sounded wistful in what well may have been his final night in pinstripes.
Grady Sizemore homered to put Cleveland ahead for good on the third pitch of the game, then Paul Byrd and the bullpen closed out the third straight first-round debacle for the Yankees.
“This team hasn’t had a championship in Cleveland for a long time,” said Kenny Lofton, the veteran who hit .375 for the Indians. “This is just an unbelievable feeling to be able just to start this process again.”
Cleveland moves on to its first ALCS since 1998, opening Friday night at Fenway Park. The Indians were only 2-5 against the Red Sox this season but will have aces C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona fully rested.
Winless in six tries against the Yankees during the regular season, the Indians are seeking their first World Series title since 1948. The NL championship series starts Thursday night with Colorado at Arizona.
Looking grim, Steinbrenner didn’t speak as he left the ballpark.
“Hopefully there will be some reconsideration, but the Boss does what he wants,” Johnny Damon said.
General manager Brian Cashman spoke to Steinbrenner after the game.
“All I told him was: ‘Sorry, Boss,’” Cashman said.
The owner’s reaction?
“Nothing,” the GM said.
New York overcame a 21-29 start to win the AL wild card but was done in by poor pitching, an insect invasion and the latest October vanishing act by Rodriguez, whose bat was quiet until a solo home run in the seventh.
The pesky Indians, who wasted a three-run lead in Game 3, chased Chien-Ming Wang in the second and burst ahead 4-0. Byrd kept wiggling out of trouble, and Victor Martinez’s two-run single made it 6-1 in the fourth against Mike Mussina.
A day after averting a sweep, New York put runners on in every inning except the eighth. But when it counted, its high-octane offense fell flat once again, with late solo homers by Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Bobby Abreu not enough.
A disappointed crowd of 56,315 also might have seen Rodriguez in pinstripes for the final time. A likely MVP during the regular season, A-Rod was largely AWOL in the playoffs for the third straight year, striking out with two on in the first and again leading off the third.