NEW YORK — Overlooked, under-appreciated, disregarded — that’s how the Indians like it.
A team that finished tied for the best record in baseball, yet still entered the Division Series against New York as an underdog, will be in the same position when the ALCS opens Friday night in Boston.
“Nobody picked us to win this series,” said Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia in a victorious visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday morning after the Indians had clinched the Division Series with a 6-4 victory in Game 4. “I want it to stay that way. We’re just going the way we have been, playing good baseball and working hard.”
“They probably haven’t gotten as much credit as they deserved,” said defeated Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, whose mega-million payroll couldn’t cope with the mid-market Indians. “They’re very well-balanced. They have terrific pitching and a better offense than I think actually performed for the season.
“I certainly admire the artwork that (Indians GM) Mark Shapiro is doing, putting a team together over the years and having it grow into something special right now.”
What the Indians accomplished against one of the game’s most storied franchises certainly falls into that category.
Given little chance to end New York’s postseason reign in the first round for the third consecutive year, the Indians used the same formula for success that they employed during the regular season — top-shelf starting pitching, a stingy bullpen and an opportunistic offense — to vanquish the Yanks. They got contributions from nearly every player on their postseason roster to make it happen.
“It was an amazing effort, one through nine,” said Paul Byrd, who won Game 4 by allowing two runs through five-plus innings, “a total team effort.”
“I’m just very proud of our guys and happy for them,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, who, like a number of his players, is a postseason rookie. “I love seeing where they’re at right now. I’m just happy they have the opportunity to go to the ALCS and compete and try to take this to the next level.”
On that next level awaits a Boston team that tied the Indians for the majors’ best record and is considered a more formidable opponent than the Yankees, with better pitching in the rotation and a comparable bullpen and power-packed lineup. In short, the Red Sox are the consensus pick to win their second World Series title in four years.
“We’ll study Boston and figure all that out later,” Byrd said. “But nothing’s tougher than coming into Yankee Stadium and pulling this off.”
And though they once again fill the role of underdog, the Indians will not go in unarmed. Cleveland employs two of the big league’s best starters in Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, a bullpen that was close to impenetrable against the Yankees and a lineup that is potentially dangerous from top to bottom.
No one knows the Red Sox more than the Yankees and their manager Joe Torre, who thinks that the Indians could present some problems for Boston.
“The Red Sox have had a great season. I feel like we’ve had a great season,” said Wedge, who spent the majority of his playing career in Boston’s organization. “You’re going to have two very good teams competing in the ALCS.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.