Indians secure home-field advantage with win
Bring on the Yankees.
Indians left-hander C.C. Sabathia won his 100th career game, and Cleveland guaranteed itself home-field advantage against New York in next week’s Division Series with a 5-3 victory Friday night over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium.
“Bring it on,” Sabathia said. “We’re excited to be in this situation.”
Boston clinched the East Division championship Friday, while New York will be the wild-card entrant. Cleveland wins the tie-breaker with Los Angeles, thus guaranteeing the Indians the second seed -- at least.
The Tribe can still point toward finishing with the best record in the league and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Cleveland and Boston are tied for the top spot at 95-65. The AL representative holds home field for the World Series. The AL’s top seed is given the option to play its five games in seven days or eight.
“When you say ‘playoffs,’ my eyes light up,” said veteran outfielder Kenny Lofton, who will be making his 11th postseason appearance. “I’m looking forward to my ultimate goal, which is to win a World Series. Like they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it.”
Sabathia, who turned 27 in July, is the youngest pitcher since Greg Maddux in 1993 to reach 100 career victories. Maddux was 27 when he picked up his 100th win. Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen (1991) was the last American League pitcher to win 100 games at age 27. The last left-hander with 100 wins at 27 was Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers in 1987.
“That’s big,” Sabathia said. “It means I’ve stayed healthy, pitched well and played on good teams.”
Sabathia (19-7) and Fausto Carmona both finish the season with 19 wins. The Indians haven’t had two 19-game winners on their staff since Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Herb Score all won 20 or more games in 1956.
Travis Hafner belted his 24th home run of the season, and Casey Blake put the visitors ahead for good with a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning.
“Every team in the AL is going to be tough, but I’m really glad the series is going to start at home, in front of our fans,” Hafner said. “Obviously, (the Yankees) are a great team. But everybody in here is excited.”
The Indians endured a scary moment in the fifth inning when Mark Grudzielanek’s line-drive struck Sabathia on the left forearm, just above the wrist. Sabathia was examined by head trainer Lonnie Soloff, threw a couple test pitches, then finished off the next two hitters.
“I’ll be fine, no problem,” Sabathia said. “That’s the second time (Grudzielanek) has done that to me. I don’t think he wanted to see me pitch in the playoffs. Seriously, it’s not his fault.”
Sabathia remained on the mound through the seventh and did not allow another runner to reach scoring position after Emil Brown’s third-inning RBI double.
Rafael Betancourt followed Sabathia with a perfect eighth. The Royals put two on base against Joe Borowski in the ninth, but Alex Gordon was retired on a fly ball to the warning track to finish off Borowski’s 44th save.
Esteban German, who had three home runs in 340 at-bats, stunned Sabathia by belting a two-run bomb over the left-field fence during the second inning to pull the Royals within 3-2.
Sabathia hadn’t allowed a home run since Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena took him deep in the seventh inning Aug. 19, a span of 47 innings. The Devil Rays, in fact, were the only team to hit a homer off Sabathia during his last 12 starts.
Reach Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.