|The Red Sox' Theo Epstein (left) and the Indians' Mark Shapiro indulge in some GM talk before Game 5. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)|
It's quite the experience for veterans
CLEVELAND - When the Indians limped to a 78-84 record in 2006, there was a season-ending meeting between manager Eric Wedge and general manager Mark Shapiro.
They were in agreement that their personnel warranted better than a fourth-place finish.
What's more, they were in agreement on the first course of action for 2007.
"Mark really bought into the fact that we needed to bring some veteran players in here with some experience," said Wedge.
Specifically, playoff experience.
Closer Joe Borowski, with five postseason games, signed Dec. 6, the same day the club agreed to terms with outfielder David Dellucci, he of the 17 postseason games. Trot Nixon, with 38 postseason games, came aboard Jan. 19. More experience was added during the season, most notably with the acquisition of a Cleveland cult hero, Kenny Lofton, whose playoff experience cut across 10 seasons, and also with utility infielder Chris Gomez, a 15-year veteran with 19 postseason games on his résumé.
"All those guys have done a great job," said Wedge, whose club improved by 18 games this year.
He singled out Nixon, the former Red Sox right fielder, as "really the leader for us," but so, too, has Lofton been a key.
Whereas Lofton is now the starting left fielder, the others are mostly backups and role players, but that doesn't diminish their importance, said Wedge. He gives them credit for lending great stability to a clubhouse that is dominated by starters who had very little experience.
"I think they've done a great job," said Wedge when asked how his starters without playoff experience have handled this October business. "The reason I say that is, they've handled each day as its own. They haven't gotten ahead of themselves."
All they've done is get ahead of the Red Sox and Yankees.
Striking the poseIn their 7-1 loss last night, each Indians starter struck out at least once against Josh Beckett, save for Lofton. Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Franklin Gutierrez K'd three times each. The Indians struck out to end six of the eight innings against Beckett . . . Hitless in Games 3 and 4, Sizemore led off the first with a bloop double just inside the left-field line and came around to score his sixth run of the series . . . When Hafner grounded into a 6-3 double-play to end the first, it was just the third the Indians had hit into . . . Most of the focus had been on the slumping Boston bats, but Hafner hasn't helped Cleveland much. He hit a home run in his first at-bat of Game 1, but since then, he's gone 2 for 18 with nine strikeouts. He's hitless in his last 11 at-bats.
One and doneThe Indians had made just one error in the American League Championship Series before reliever Rafael Perez made a careless throw to second on a Coco Crisp ground ball in the eighth that led to his departure after he got just one batter out . . . When right fielder Gutierrez threw out Manny Ramírez at the plate from right field in the first inning, it was his second assist of the series . . . C.C. Sabathia appeared poised for his longest postseason performance, but he couldn't get an out in the seventh. He's been the pitcher of record in both Cleveland losses in this series. His totals for his two first innings in the series: 10 batters, 4 singles, 1 double, 1 home run, 2 runs allowed . . . Certainly, the big lefthander hasn't figured out the puzzle that is David Ortiz and Ramírez. Combined, the Red Sox' 3-4 hitters gone to bat 12 times against him and reached 11, producing six hits and three RBIs . . . Of his 34 starts during the regular season, Sabathia lasted fewer than six innings just once, a four-inning stint July 5 at Detroit in a 12-3 loss . . . Since 2005, Sabathia has donated $100 for every strikeout to StrikeoutsForTroops, a national initiative started by San Francisco pitcher Barry Zito.
Jim McCabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.