CLEVELAND — Trot was on the spot Monday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Jacobs Field, while Franklin Gutierrez was on the bench.Indians manager Eric Wedge replaced a struggling Gutierrez in right field, starting veteran Trot Nixon, who drove in the go-ahead run against his former team in the 11th inning of Cleveland’s 13-6 victory over Boston on Saturday. “The last couple times we’ve had (Nixon) in there he’s swung the bat well,” said Wedge, who also started Nixon in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees, with Nixon responding by going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, a performance that included a homer off Roger Clemens. “I think it’s also good to give Goot a day.”Gutierrez, who took over in right for a scuffling Nixon in early August, has struggled to a .150 (3-for-20) average in the playoffs, with a three-run homer in Cleveland’s seven-run 11th inning Saturday, serving as one of his few highlights. The 24-year-old outfielder has struggled with breaking pitches.“He finished on a positive note, but prior to that, they’ve been feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls, Wedge said. “I think (the break) should help him.“He’s an important player for us. He’s going to be playing a lot. But I think it’s important to understand that he’s still a young player.” It’s been an up-and-down debut season in Cleveland for Nixon, who had offseason back surgery and still is not at full strength. He hit .251 with three homers and 31 RBIs in 99 regular-season games, losing his starting job to Gutierrez toward the end of the year.
“We weren’t sure when we signed him if he was going to make it out of spring training without starting on the disabled list,” Wedge said. “When we made the decision to hold him back, we felt like it was the best thing for the ballclub, and for him for the long run.
“You do see a little more life in him now. Give him an offseason and hopefully he’ll be closer to his normal self.”
Boston’s Terry Francona, who managed Nixon for three seasons before the outfielder signed with Cleveland, thought he might see his former player in the Game 3 lineup.
“I don’t think we were surprised when they sent it over,” he said.
Wedge wins award
The Sporting News announced its regular season awards, with Wedge being named AL manager of the year in voting by fellow managers.
“I think anytime you’re acknowledged by your peers, it’s more special than anything else,” said Wedge, who is considered a strong candidate to win the baseball writers’ award as well.
Player voting from both leagues determined all-stars at each position, including starting pitcher and closer, with Indians C.C. Sabathia and Joe Borowski winning those awards.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was chosen AL MVP.
Big two too fine
Sabathia and Fausto Carmona were supposed to give the Indians an edge in the opening two games in Boston, but both pitched poorly, neither making it through five innings.
“I think (Sabathia) and Fausto worked away from their strengths and tried to be a little too fine,” Wedge said.
Both walked five batters (Sabathia has walked 11 in two postseason outings), including Manny Ramirez once apiece with the bases loaded.
Jhonny calm lately
Wedge attributes part of Jhonny Peralta’s postseason success to the shortstop’s laid-back demeanor.
“I think his personality gives him an edge because he has a sense of calm about him, where everybody else may be more ramped up,” Wedge said.
Peralta, who changed the complexion of Game 2 with a three-run homer off Boston starter Curt Schilling, entered Monday hitting .458 (11-for-24) with a homer, four doubles, six RBIs and five runs in six games. In the field, he hadn’t made an error.
Wedge said the Indians didn’t arrive back in Cleveland until 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, following a
5-hour, 14-minute, 11-inning Game 2 victory, which ended at 1:37 a.m.
The result was worth the lack of sleep.
“It was big to split,” Wedge said. “You just keep going until somebody steps up or somebody stubs a toe.”
Like everyone else following the playoffs, Wedge has noticed the astounding run of the Colorado Rockies.
Going into Monday night’s game against Arizona, the Rockies were a win away from claiming a World Series berth. They had won 20 of their last 21 games, last losing on Sept. 16.
“I’m sure it’s never happened before,” said Wedge, a catcher for one season in Colorado (1993). “I’m sure they’re playing with about as much confidence as a ballclub could play with.”
The Rockies are actually the second team to win 20 of 21 games after Sept. 1, matching the 1935 Chicago Cubs. Colorado is also the second team ever to win its first six playoff games since the Reds won seven straight in 1976.
Antonetti to Cards?
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported that Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has spoken to Cleveland assistant general manager Chris Antonetti about the vacant GM job with his club.
Antonetti turned down an interview for the GM job in Pittsburgh that went to Neal Huntington, who left his special assistant position in Cleveland to assume the post with the Pirates. Antonetti is expected to be a strong candidate for any future GM openings.
“Whenever he makes the call, he’s ready to do it,” Indians GM Mark Shapiro said of Antonetti, his right-hand man the past six seasons.
Kenny Lofton is off to a hot postseason start, entering Monday hitting .364 (9-for-26) with three doubles, four RBIs and two runs in six games. He ranks second in Cleveland postseason history with 45 hits, second with 30 runs and fifth with 19 RBIs.
l The Red Sox entered Monday hitting .406 against Game 3 starter Jake Westbrook in his last 25 innings against them.
l If history holds true, losing Game 1 in Boston will be a good omen for the Indians. In both of their last two trips to the World Series (1995, 1997), they lost the ALCS opener, going on to win the series in six games (over Seattle and Baltimore).
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.