Pitching Byrd, not Sabathia, only gives Yankees hope
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 8-4 in Game 3 of the American League Division Series knowing that The Boss, George Steinbrenner, was preparing his special guillotine for Joe Torre in the event of a season-ending loss.
Letting 'Em Play Another Day
Veteran right-hander Paul Byrd, rather than Game 1 starter C.C. Sabathia, is the Cleveland starter tonight as the Indians get Chance No. 2 to oust the host Yankees.
|'07 ALDS||Game 3 at N.Y.||Lost 8-4|
|'01 ALDS||Game 5 at Sea.||Lost 6-2|
|'01 ALDS||Game 4 vs. Sea.||Lost 3-1|
|'99 ALDS||Game 5 vs. Bos.||Lost 12-8|
|'99 ALDS||Game 4 at Bos.||Lost 23-7|
|'99 ALDS||Game 3 at Bos.||Lost 9-3|
Torre handled the specter of his termination Sunday with class, as he always does, but if the Yankees somehow come back and win this series, it is Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro, the Indians' manager and general manager, respectively, who should be fighting for their jobs. With the Yankees re-energized and at home, the decision to pitch Paul Byrd in Monday's Game 4 at Yankee Stadium instead of probable Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia on three days' rest might just turn out to be one the Cleveland organization regrets for years.
With Sabathia and Fausto Carmona -- who dominated the Yankees for nine innings in Cleveland's 11-inning, 2-1 win in Game 2 -- the Indians have the best pair of starters in the playoffs. They are the two pitchers no team wants to face, never mind having to beat them consecutively. They are the reason the Indians can win the World Series.
And when you have a chance to stamp out the Yankees, a team well-known for its ability to resemble the undead -- New York lost the first two games of the 2001 AL Division Series at home before winning three straight against Oakland, and the Yanks leapfrogged 10 teams after May 29 to make the playoffs this season -- you have to take it.
We're going to move forward just as we had planned. Byrdie will be on the mound [Monday], and we'll go from there. ... We knew we were going to need four starters if it went that far here in the series, and that's where we're at.
--Indians manager Eric Wedge
Wedge already has dodged one bullet, for if not for the biblical swarm of Lake Erie midges Friday night, the Yankees might have beaten the Indians and be playing to clinch the series Monday.But the manager apparently likes to play with fire because he has Sabathia in his pocket with a chance to avoid even the possibility of a fifth game in Cleveland, where Carmona provides comfort but anything is possible in a winner-take-all situation. Just call Jake Peavy, who will win the Cy Young this year in the National League, and ask him about last week's one-game playoff with Colorado.
"We're going to move forward just as we had planned. Byrdie will be on the mound [Monday], and we'll go from there," Wedge said of Byrd, who is 0-3 with a 6.86 ERA in his past four starts against the Yankees. "You know, it's where we are. We knew we were going to need four starters if it went that far here in the series, and that's where we're at. That's what we're going to go with."
Maybe it will not turn out this way. Maybe Byrd will pitch the game of his life and eliminate the Yankees, allowing Carmona and Sabathia to pitch the first two games of the ALCS against the Red Sox. Or maybe it is more important for Wedge to have the seemingly unstoppable combination of Sabathia and Carmona available -- similar to Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in relief in the 2001 World Series -- in the event of a Game 5 in Cleveland. Many Yankees were expecting Sabathia, though, and his not being on the mound only further emboldens a suddenly dangerous team. Still, Wedge knows his team, and it is always dangerous to second-guess a manager who won 96 games. The recent history of starting a pitcher on three days' rest also is not especially good. Just ask Ted Lilly about when he took the mound for the Cubs in Game 2 against Arizona. Wedge is not panicking. He believes in his team. Sabathia threw 114 pitches in five innings in Game 1, and he has pitched on three days' rest but once in his career. At first, it appeared Wedge's strategy was to set up his rotation for the ALCS against the Red Sox that starts Friday night. But even if Sabathia started, he would be available on normal rest for Game 2 in Boston. Thus, Wedge & Co. simply do not want to veer from convention. But not going for the jugular now is risky.
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