The Cleveland Indians beat the New York Yankees 6-4 on Monday to win their first-round playoff series and advance to the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.
The Indians chased New York's 19-game winner Wang Chien-ming (王建民) from the contest in the second inning and backed starter Paul Byrd with six early runs on their way to claiming the best-of-five Divisional Series by a 3-1 margin.
Jhonny Peralta had three hits and drove in a run, Victor Martinez had two hits and two runs batted in, and lead-off man Grady Sizemore stroked a homer to pace the 13-hit attack.
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said it was a great team effort, beginning with soft-tossing, winning pitcher Byrd.
"He controlled the baseball game," Wedge said of Byrd, a 15-game winner this season. "He made pitches when he had to. The hitters came through. The bullpen did a great job. It was a good baseball game."
Boston, which advanced with a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, will host the Indians in the opener of the best-of-seven ALCS on Friday.
The Indians-Red Sox winner will advance to the World Series against the survivor of the National League Championship Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies starting in Phoenix tomorrow.
Wang, the Game 1 loser, was pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career and was not up to the task as the sinkerballer was hurt by pitches up in the strike zone. Battered for eight runs in New York's opening 12-3 loss, Wang was chased after just three outs -- the shortest start of the 27-year-old's short career.
Sizemore led off the game with a homer to right-center and Peralta singled home another in the first inning to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
Cleveland began the second inning with a walk, a single and a hit batsman and Yankees manager Joe Torre called on Mike Mussina to replace Wang.
Mussina induced a double-play grounder from Sizemore that scored one run, and a single by Asdrubal Cabrera gave the Tribe another two-run inning for a 4-0 lead.
An infield hit by Derek Jeter with the bases full in the second inning made it 4-1, but the visitors scored two runs again in the fourth on Martinez's single to lead 6-1.
The Yankees squandered numerous chances to claw their way back, leaving 10 men on base over the first seven innings.
The New Yorkers inched closer with the long ball. They got one run back in the sixth inning on a homer by Robinson Cano, and another in the seventh on a blast by Alex Rodriguez.
Bobby Abreu belted an upper-deck homer with one out in the ninth off Tibe closer Joe Borowski and Jorge Posada narrowly missed another round-tripper that drifted just foul in right.
After the near miss, Posada struck out on slider in the dirt to end the game and set off an Indians celebration on the center of the Yankee Stadium diamond.
With the Yankees being eliminated for the third straight season in the first round of the playoffs, Torre's job is in jeopardy.
"[Torre's] job is on the line," owner George Steinbrenner told the Bergen Record newspaper prior to the Yankees' season-ending loss to Cleveland. "I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don't think we'd take him back if we don't win this series."
This is nothing new for Torre. Exactly one year ago, Steinbrenner reportedly was close to firing the longest-tenured manager in his 34-year reign as owner.
Torre told reporters: "You make a mistake, they beat your brains out. That's what happened to us."
Torre, who turned 67 on July 18, is in the last year of a contract that is paying him US$7 million.
He last faced job security questions when the Yankees lost 14 of their first 25 games through April.
New York, which has never missed the playoffs in Torre's 12 years at the helm, reached the postseason in improbable fashion this year, rallying from a 21-29 start to win the AL wild card.
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