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Lofton is continuing his quest for that elusive ring

Kenny Lofton smacks a two-run single in the first inning, one of his three hits. Kenny Lofton smacks a two-run single in the first inning, one of his three hits. (GREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES)

CLEVELAND - Kenny Lofton is back with Cleveland for the third time and he made last night a real charm, playing a big part in the Indians' 12-3 victory in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees.

He had three hits. He knocked in four runs. And he stole his 33d postseason base, tying him for No. 1 with Rickey Henderson. Not bad for a 40-year-old who was a midseason acquisition from Texas and who admits he's on a Tolkienesque quest to get a World Series championship ring.

"That's my biggest thing right now," Lofton said. "I'm trying to get a ring. All that stuff that happened in the past is past. I was in New York and trying to get a ring and I almost got one. Philly, too. I can name them all. But that's what I look at - trying to get a ring."

He has been around - the DHL commercial is pretty close to the truth - and has been to the postseason in 11 of the past 13 seasons. As Yankees manager Joe Torre noted, "He bounced around a lot of clubs for a reason: They felt he could help them. He did a hell of a job."

Lofton drove in two runs in the first with a two-out single. He drove in another run with a two-out single in the fifth. He drove in his fourth run with a two-out double in the sixth.

He has given Cleveland a big boost at the No. 7 spot in the order since coming over from the Rangers in a July trade. "It really gives the bottom [third] of our lineup an entirely different feel and look," said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. Lofton hit .283 in 53 games with the Tribe.

The win last night was the first in the postseason for Cleveland since another rout - 17-2 over the Seattle Mariners in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.

A-Rod falls flat

Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 2 and was walked twice, once intentionally. He's now 3 for 31 in his past three playoff series . . . Hideki Matsui (.185 in September) went 0 for 3 against C.C. Sabathia (making him 0 for 12 lifetime against the Indians pitcher) and then fanned in the eighth against Jensen Lewis . . . In going deep twice against Chien-Ming Wang, the Indians became only the second team this season to hit two homers in a game against the Yankee ace. The other was the Red Sox, on April 29, in a 7-4 Boston victory. The four homers in the game by Cleveland matched a franchise postseason record. In 1998, the Tribe had four homers against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALDS and they also hit four against the Yankees in Game 3 of the 1998 AL Championship Series. Manny Ramírez homered in both of those games for Cleveland . . . Torre broke in his rookie bullpen pitchers when the game got out of hand, going with Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Veras, and Phil Hughes . . . Cleveland got an overpowering two-inning relief stint from Rafael Perez, who retired all six batters he faced, striking out four . . . LeBron James was at the game wearing a Yankees cap. The Cavaliers star says he has been a Yankees fan for life and sees no reason to change. Several signs at the Jake told LeBron it was either a) OK or b) about time that he change his rooting interest . . . Tonight's Indians starter, Fausto Carmona, said his idol growing up was none other than Pedro Martinez. "I haven't met him," said Carmona, 23. "I would love to meet him." . . . Andy Pettitte has been Torre's Game 2 starter ever since he can remember. (Tonight's will be his 10th Game 2 start in ALDS play.) Why is that? "It just seems like I was always the candidate for Game 2," Pettitte said with a shrug. "And I think [Torre] has gotten to the point this year that it might have been, 'Well, Andy always starts Game 2, might as well pitch him in Game 2.' " When the Astros made it to the World Series in 2005, Pettitte started Game 1 of the National League Division Series against Atlanta and Games 1 and 5 of the NLCS against the Cardinals . . . Doug Mientkiewicz started at first base for the Yankees, but not without incident. A photographer fell into him while Mientkiewicz was on his way to the clubhouse, and he hurt his left ankle. He was replaced by Shelley Duncan in the fifth inning, but not because of injury. "He came out because we were down in the game and I was trying to get something started," Torre said. Asked if Mientkiewicz would play tonight, Torre said, "Hopefully." . . . Derek Jeter looks at the Yankees these days with their infusion of youth and has an eerie sense of deja vu. It's the mid-1990s and he's among a slew of hotshot prospects joining a veteran team. There's one big difference: Jeter joined a team that hadn't won a championship in 17 years. These Yankees are seven years removed from their last title, which, to Jeter, almost feels like 17. "It really makes me think back to when I first came up [in 1996]," Jeter said. "They're letting the young players come out. I think it says a lot about our organization."

Ratings are up

With later start times and the presence of several big-market teams, baseball drew higher television ratings than last year on the opening day of the playoffs. The three games Wednesday on TBS averaged 4.54 million viewers, up from 4.48 million for two contests on cable and one on network TV in 2006. The Red Sox-Angels matchup at 6:30 p.m. attracted 5.46 million viewers, more than double the audience for the 4 p.m. game between San Diego and St. Louis on ESPN last season . . . Tigers designated hitter Gary Sheffield, 38, will have shoulder surgery Monday but is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. He has had shoulder surgery twice, most recently in 1995.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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