Kenny Lofton sets postseason record for stolen bases
CLEVELAND -- Kenny Lofton is the king of steals in October.
Lofton got his 34th postseason stolen base Tuesday night, breaking Rickey Henderson's career record and helping the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Red Sox 7-3 in Game 4 of the AL championship series.
"It's a good accomplishment," he said. "It's an opportunity for me to be able to stay aggressive and do what I do during the season."
Lofton hit a two-out single in Cleveland's seven-run fifth inning and swiped second base before scoring on Casey Blake's single.
The well-traveled Lofton is 40, but he's looked much younger than that this month. He homered on Monday night and is batting .333 with six RBIs, four runs scored and two steals in the playoffs.
Henderson, who had 33 stolen bases in eight years of postseason play, is baseball's career steals leader with 1,406 in the regular season. Lofton ranks 15th with 622.
^WATCH AND WAIT:@ The Colorado Rockies' long layoff before the World Series was a popular topic for the two teams that might face them.
The Rockies won the National League pennant on Monday night, completing a four-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks. But with the World Series not starting until a week from Wednesday, the Rockies will have an eight-day wait before they play again.
"I'm sure they won't worry about it too much," Cleveland catcher Kelly Shoppach said. "They're in the World Series."
Added Boston reliever Mike Timlin, "Sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's not. When we face 'em, I hope they're flat as all get out."
Colorado's wait is the longest in postseason history, and it puts their incredible momentum on ice -- at least temporarily. The Rockies have won 21 of their last 22, including their last 10.
"That's pretty cool," Shoppach said. "What a story. That's some tough stuff right there. It's almost unthinkable in baseball."
^CATCH ME IF YOU CAN:@ Indians manager Eric Wedge has firsthand experience with Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who took the loss in Game 4 of the AL championship series Tuesday night.
Wedge, a former catcher in Boston's organization, caught Wakefield's unpredictable pitch in the minor leagues.
Actually, he chased it nearly as much as he cradled it in his glove.
"It's tough," Wedge said. "It's not easy. It dances all the way to the end."
Perfecting a knuckleball has allowed Wakefield to enjoy a long career, which began as a draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988. Wakefield doesn't rely solely on a knuckleball and occasionally mixes in a slider and fastball.
Wakefield is a rare breed in today's game. Years ago, the majors were peppered with knuckleballers such as Phil Niekro, Wilbur Wood, Tom Candiotti and Hoyt Wilhelm.
Where'd they all go?
"I don't know," Wedge said. "It's a generational gap. You don't see them at all anymore. When I was growing up there were a handful in each league that you knew by name."
Wedge's days with the knuckleball are behind him, too.
"I don't even like playing catch with one," he said.
^DICE-K WILL BE OK:@ The padded chair in front of Daisuke Matsuzaka's locker was finally empty Tuesday. That was a very good sign.
Dice-K was still sitting there more than an hour after pitching poorly for the Red Sox in Boston's 4-2 loss to Cleveland in Game 3 of the AL championship series on Monday night.
Then he issued a 20-second statement through his translator as he continued to sit silently and stare into his locker, clasping his hands behind his neck, then pressing the heel of his left hand to his forehead.
"How he sat in his locker or his demeanor after the game won't have any bearing on how he pitches the next time out," manager Terry Francona said before Cleveland won 7-3 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Matsuzaka cost the Red Sox $103.11 million in bidding rights and a six-year contract and has struggled in two playoff outings as a rookie.
"All the notoriety that came with him signing with the Red Sox, the cultural differences," Francona said. "He feels so much responsibility because he is so competitive."
He said Matsuzaka has even apologized to him at times when he goes to the mound to bring in a reliever.
"He's one of the strongest guys mentally I've ever seen," Francona said. "Ten minutes after a game, how a guy reacts won't have anything to do with five days later with time to process things."
Relief pitcher Mike Timlin said Red Sox players support Matsuzaka.
"We're not worried about him," Timlin said. "We'll handle it when we need to handle it. This is a 30-man family. When a guy falls down, the rest of us pick him up."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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