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It all comes down to Game 7

Obviously, Fausto struggled tonight. He?s a great pitcher. He?ll come back strong.Tribe

But this game?s over. Talk is so cheap now. We need to come out and play tomorrow, and so do the Red Sox. And that?s all. The time for talking about stuff is over. It comes down to one game.

We just need to remember how far we?ve come. If you would have told us last year or the beginning of this year that we?d be in this position, we?d take it. We need to cherish this opportunity.

Game 7s are what being in the playoffs is all about. We?ll see what happens. As a kid, you dream about it. Someone will be a hero tomorrow. It might be someone from this clubhouse or it might be someone from over there. We?ll wait and see who it is tomorrow.

Were up not down in this series

It would have been fun to win at home, obviously. Just to do it on this field and get relaxed a little bit. But for me, as a player, the way I?m looking at it is, we came home and we won two of three, which is a pretty good feeling. We knew it would be tough against Josh Beckett. It would have been our dream to win all three here, but we knew how tough it was going to be.

I still think we?re in a good spot going back to Fenway Park. If you would have said we?d go back to Boston up 3-2 rather than down 3-2, that?s the more important part for us.

I thought Youkilis hitting that home run and them scoring first was big. They got the clutch homer tonight, which we had been doing. We just couldn?t get the clutch hit tonight. It seems like the games we lose, we just don?t get the clutch hit. That happens. Sometimes you just get beat. That?s what it felt like tonight. Their starting pitcher just beat us.

During that Lofton-Beckett scuffle, I was watching my last at-bat down below. They had a second TV on, but they didn?t really show it. It?s funny, because, as a player, there?s no dumber feeling than being the last guy to run out on the field. Chris Gomez and I were down below watching my at-bat. We come out there, and you try to act like you?re mad, but you don?t know what?s happening. By the time you get there, the situation is already cooled down. It?s a dumb feeling. You feel like, ?I should have just stayed down there watching film.?

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So now we?ll go back to Boston and face Curt Schilling in Game 6. You have to live in the present. Schilling has re-invented himself. He used to be a great power guy, but he?s still tough. He mixes up his pitches and hits his spots. But that?s the Schilling we?re facing, and we have to remember that. We?re not facing the Diamondbacks in 2001. We?re facing the Red Sox in 2007.

Were in a great situation

I don?t think this has sunk in yet. I think it?s good that we have another off-day to think about where we?re at. The off-day is great, because C.C. will get his full rest. Obviously, Josh Beckett will get his full rest, too. But I think the off-day is a good thing. It?s nice to have these days to get your body right and your mind right. I don?t think it?s going to hurt us in any way.

What a team effort tonight. The stadium was loud. This is what you dream about as a player. Both teams were just waiting for something to happen early on. It was great that it was us that made something happen. Casey?s home run obviously set the tone for that big fifth inning. That?s the thing with the knuckleball. Some of them were nasty, and some we were just missing. Casey finally caught one of them. There?s nothing better than putting up a seven-spot in any game. To do it in this game tonight, that?s about as much fun as you can have. It was like a party in the dugout.

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I?ll take credit for Jhonny?s homer. I told him to move up in the box, because some of Wakefield?s knuckleballs were just downright nasty and down in the zone. I told him to move up, and he just laughed. I don?t usually give guys tips on days I?m not playing, but I sometimes do with Jhonny, just because we talk about hitting a lot. But I usually don?t want to bother guys when they?re locked in. When I?m not playing, I kind of live through Jhonny, because I know he?s trying to go deep with every swing, just like me. And he did it tonight. I loved it. It seems like every game I don?t play, he goes deep. I get to mess around with him and towel him off and give him a cup of water.

Byrdie was great again tonight. He did the same thing Jake did. He just threw strikes and went after them. Hopefully, he starts getting the credit he deserves. We all kind of laughed when everybody was talking about how he shouldn?t have gotten that start in New York. Now he?s gone out and shut down two of the best offenses in the league in back-to-back starts.

We?re in a great situation, with C.C. going on Thursday. We?ve leaned on him all year, and we?re excited to have him out there. But it?s going to be tough. Josh Beckett?s one of the best pitchers in the league. One of the hardest things to do in sports is to finish a team off, because now they can go up there like they have nothing to lose. We just need to remember what we?re all about. Even though we?re up 3-1, we?re still more or less the underdogs that are on the verge of doing something special.

Game 3 win a big picker-upper

Jake did a great job of pounding the zone tonight. The thing we all noticed is that we weren?t in the field as long, like we were during those two games in Boston, where every count was deep. Jake wasn?t running counts, and that makes a difference as an infielder. It gets overlooked, but offensively and defensively, you?re so much more into the game when every count isn?t extra long. So he really did a good job. He really picked us up.

I thought Dice-K?s stuff was better tonight than it was during the season. He ran a couple up there at 95 and 96 mph. He didn?t do that during the year. But obviously, Kenny got that hit, and that was big. He?s been talking about his power. He finally showed it tonight That was just another clutch play out of him. He?s been clutch all postseason.

I forgot how loud it gets here at Jacobs Field. Once again, our fans were just as loud here as the fans at Yankee Stadium and a lot louder than Fenway Park. They?re into the game, and they?re great fans. You can?t say enough about them. Every time somebody gets two strikes, they?re into it. Every time we get someone on base, they?re into it. It?s a lot of fun to play in that environment.

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People talked about the momentum carrying over from Saturday?s win, but the biggest momentum tonight was Jake getting ground balls when we needed them. That?s the only momentum you can feel as a player. I made that error in the second, and when he got out of that jam, there was nobody happier in the stadium than me. That?s what we?ve been doing all year is picking each other up, and he really picked me up right there. I told him I?d go out and try to get a hit and score a run for him to make up for the error. It ended up working out later that inning, when I got the hit and Kenny hit that homer.

Tuesday?s game is really important. The fourth and fifth games of seven-game series, to me, are always the important ones. At least, as a fan, it seems that way. I?ve never been in one before. But when you?re watching a team and rooting for a team, those are usually the games that matter the most.

We kept the home-field advantage tonight. It was big to win this first one at home — to keep everyone excited and to keep our focus on winning the next one.

My cousin, ?Big Body? Erb, texted me today. He?s back in North Carolina now. He was probably out somewhere watching this game tonight. He?s bugging me about getting him a signed bat to put up in his room, but he?s going to have to wait until after the season. I don?t remember him asking me for a signed bat when I was in Buffalo.

What a game!

That was a huge win and everybody was so happy for Trot Nixon to come up with that hit. He has been through a lot this season but he has always stayed upbeat and positive despite losing playing time and at-bats in the second half. We were all really happy for him.

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We were all really tired, more mentally than anything. First of all, the start of the game was 8:20, that’s something we never do all year so you have all day to sit around and think about the game.

Then it seemed like every at-bat was long. There were no quick outs, every at-bat seemed to have four, five and six pitches. And a lot of guys were getting on base, that always slows it down. As a position player it can be mentally tough. You’ve got to stay up mentally because a ball hit to you could be the difference between winning and losing. You have to be ready because you never know.

We were tired but there was still a sense of accomplishment because we knew we had done something difficult in winning a game like that in Boston.

The plane ride home was fun. You had the usual RBI baseball video game going in the back, the card games in the middle and most of the guys eating or sleeping up front. Vic Martinez, who seems to have unlimited energy had his music on.

A bunch of guys got up Sunday and went to the Browns game. I slept too late to go, but I’m going to watch the Patriots-Cowboys game, have a nice dinner and get a good night’s sleep. We didn’t get in until 7 a.m.

I have a lot of family coming in this week. My parents are coming in from California. They haven’t been here since April. They got rattled by the snow. They were here for four or five days and didn’t get to see one game. They went to games in Anaheim and Oakland but said they weren’t coming back to Cleveland until the playoffs. Well, the playoffs are here.

Heres to all the naysayers

Tonight?s game had an 8:20 p.m. start, which is pretty weird. We all had nothing to do all day. I spent my day at the food court eating chicken fingers with my cousin, Corey ?Big Body? Erb. I was getting ready to go.

The team just did a great job of hanging in there tonight. Every time the Red Sox took the lead, we came back. Jhonny?s home run was really big for us. That was a big part of the game. But when Manny and Lowell hit those back-to-back home runs, you definitely had a feeling it could go either way, and it was just a matter of who would get the last big hit.

Trot had the the big hit in the 11th, and it was great to see. He?s been a leader for us and a mentor on this team, and, even though he hasn?t been starting, he?s continued to work hard and prepare himself for that moment. For him to do it in Boston was sweet. Everybody loves Trot, and we were all really happy to see him get that hit.

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This is what we?ve been talking about all along. We?re a team, in the truest sense of the word. Throughout this whole year, it?s been about 25 guys. Not just one or two superstars. We have superstars, but they don?t bring attention to themselves and they follow the team concept.

We definitely saw the papers here in Boston. People were calling us a joke and talking about how this series is already over. As a player, you read it, and a lot of times you don?t care. But anything you can use as motivation this time of year is great. When you?re on the road, you always get that taste. Detroit is probably my favorite place for it. They were ripping us up all year in the Detroit papers, talking about how we were going to choke. We got another little taste of it today. It makes it all the more fun to go on the road and win games like this.

C.C. and Fausto definitely learned something from their starts, and they?ll be ready to go the next time they pitch. If you would have said neither one of those guys would get through the fifth inning of their starts, and we?d be 1-1, I would have said, ?You?re kidding.? But our bullpen did a great job tonight. Tom Mastny is the MVP of this one along with Trot. Because to come in and get the middle of their lineup out like that is pretty impressive.

Series far from over … well be all right

Tonight was a weird night. It didn?t feel like New York and Cleveland. It was a little bit more of a laid-back atmosphere. I don?t know why. Maybe it?s because it?s a longer series, or because they?re used to being in the playoffs here or something. Obviously, they have great fans here, but it was weird, because when they were going through introductions, it was kind of silent. It was strange. Guys on both teams were saying that.

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It was great when Haf got us up, but they put up good at-bats against C.C. He was throwing good pitches, but they had good at-bats. I thought he looked good tonight. That first game against New York he was up, up, up. Tonight, he was down in the zone and getting ahead of guys. But they just got some big hits there. I thought Mike Lowell?s double in the third inning was big. He found a hole in right field. It was just a good at-bat. You make a good pitch, and a guy hits a double down the line. What can you do? That?s baseball. For me, as a hitter, watching the Red Sox work counts, not swinging at balls and swinging at strikes — that had more to do with what happened than anything C.C. was doing out there.

Josh Beckett is probably right there with Fausto and Felix Hernandez as the best right-handed pitchers in the league. He did a great job, once he got the lead, of keeping his foot down on us. He was throwing strikes and getting ahead. It?s hard to have a big inning against a guy with that kind of stuff and who?s pitching like that.

This is just one game. We don?t want to go back to Cleveland down 2-0. But even if we do, this is a longer series. We?ve got to be ready to go on Saturday, and hopefully Fausto will pitch well. This is so different than a five-game series, and it?s even different knowing we?re going back home. We?ll be all right.

Being from the West Coast, I don?t get too caught up in East Coast teams, so I don?t know much about the history of Fenway Park or the team or anything like that. I like playing here now, just because the Red Sox have such a great team and great fans. This is a good park to hit in, I guess. You can see the ball good, and that?s all I care about. It?s fun playing against this team, because they have so many great players. You know they’re going to be exciting games.

Whirlwind continues

Travishafner275On the flight home from New York, I think we were all just so tired from those two games at Yankee Stadium. They took so long and took so much out of us. It was time to just take a deep breath. We probably had more fun on the flight going to New York after we won that game here in Cleveland. Because even though we knew we had won the series, we right away started to think about the task ahead of us. We don?t want to just beat the Yankees. We want to win the World Series.

On the off-day Tuesday, I went to the mall out in Beachwood to buy a few shirts. I was in Nordstrom buying a tie, and I could see a few people from the shoe department looking over at me. I started talking with one of the guys about Yankee Stadium and going there and playing. It was fun to see how everybody was so into what the team was doing. They were saying how each night, everybody was crowding around the TV in the men?s shoe department to watch the games. Everyone was just going crazy. It was a lot of fun to see all the enthusiasm surrounding the team. We really didn?t get to see that, clinching in New York. A couple friends of mine said everyone downtown was real excited.

When we got off the flight from New York, there were about seven people waiting for us at the airpport. Those were definitely superfans. They came out in the middle of the night. They got their money?s worth, too, because they got on ESPN.

It was fun to be on the Jim Rome show today. I grew up a pretty big fan of the show. I?m still into it. My favorite part was talking with him about callers into the show, like Mike from Wichita or Chad from Portland. It?s kind of come full-circle, because now Ben Francisco and I are rooting for the ?clones,? and not the other way around. We?re trying to pick who will win the ?Smack Off.? It cracks us up. I think Rome does a good job. I like hearing his take on sports.

I checked into my hotel and right away checked out, because we?re heading to Boston tonight. No complaints, but it?s definitely a whirlwind. I think it will be nice to have less days off in this round, because we?re playing well and swinging well.

People talk about us being in this series. But you don?t sneak up on the other team. You just sneak up on the media. Just because all the guys that write for all the New York papers didn?t give us respect doesn?t mean the Yankees didn?t.

That just happened! Can you believe it?

Tonight?s win was almost surreal. In the ninth inning, part of me just wanted to close my eyes and start praying, and part of me was like, ?Well, I gotta watch!? Joe got strike three, and right away I hugged Trot Nixon. We both were like, ?That just happened! Can you believe it?? To go out on the mound at Yankee Stadium and hug all these guys who have been through a lot together was just an awesome feeling.

During batting practice, they were showing a video of that ?96 Yankees team, and talking about how they pulled wins out of nowhere and had guys come out of nowhere to pull off victories. I was thinking, ?That sounds exactly like the 2007 Indians.? It?s nice to do this here at Yankee Stadium, because, obviously, they?ve had a dynasty the last 10 years or so. Maybe we can do the same thing now. We?ve got a lot of young guys and a lot of young players and young superstars like Grady and Travis and Vic. Going out on that mound and seeing these fans celebrating there was incredible. Who would have thought it? You look at their lineup and the names in that lineup, and it was definitely David and Goliath. It was a tall task.

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I think it?s always more fun to be the underdog. But at the same time, when we sat down as 25 guys, we knew we had a better record, we played in a tougher division, we had a better pitching staff and we have a lot of great young players. You can?t buy into the name on the front of the uniform or the name on the back. You?ve got to go out and actually play the game. That?s the way I looked at this series. The reason we struggled so much with the Yankees during the season was it was the first time we faced guys like Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina. This time around, it was just like, ?Who cares?? They?re not any better than Johan Santana or Justin Verlander or Mark Buehrle and all those guys we played against all year.

Obviously, I wasn?t in the lineup tonight, because Kelly Shoppach caught Paul Byrd and Vic went to first base. All I thought about is that it?s cool that Eric had the courage to do what we?ve been doing all year and do what got us here to the playoffs. If you start C.C. on three days? rest, you don?t know what you?re going to get. If you catch Vic with Byrd, you don?t know what you?re going to get there, either. This is how we won our division and won games, and we went with it. I?ve had some of my best games of the year coming off the bench when Byrdie starts. Who cares? It?s all about getting wins now. I was ready to go if we needed to, and I was actually hoping I wouldn?t get in there tonight, because that would mean we won. And that?s how it turned out. We had a meeting when the playoffs started, and Eric said, ?Just be yourselves. Don?t do anything different.? If he started getting out of character and changing things, what message would that send to us?

We?ve been doing great things all year but haven?t been getting attention for it. There are probably people who never watched an Indians game. This series gave us a chance to show we have superstars like Victor and Grady? quiet, humble superstars that don?t get enough attention. Maybe they will now.

The coolest thing about these celebrations is that this is the best team I?ve ever played on where all the guys like each other and have fun together. It might look like we?re out of control when we?re celebrating, but it?s all genuine. It?s just been a lot of fun playing with these guys.

P.S. To all the Yankees fans who wrote in, thanks for your e-mails. See you next
year.

 

Stadium lives up to billing, but we wont panic

Stadium_blogYankee Stadium was as loud as advertised tonight. It was loud and crazy in Cleveland those first two games, but obviously when you?re here at Yankee Stadium and it?s October, it?s something else. In that first inning, when Johnny Damon got on first base, he looked at me and said, ?Man, this is why I came here, to play in an atmosphere like this.? He told me, ?Hey, kid, enjoy this.?

Roger Clemens was not pitching like the guy I grew up watching. It?s too bad. You don?t want to see a guy get hurt. You want to try to beat their best and all that. It was cool facing him, though. I was real excited to get the opportunity to face him.

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It was nice to take a lead early. We came out and we weren?t overwhelmed by anything going on. But the game took a turn in the middle innings. Still, we didn?t quit. We battled off their bullpen. It wasn?t invincible. And that?s the second time we?ve found a way to get to their bullpen. We continued to put up good at-bats. But we couldn?t get that three-run homer. They did. Both teams played for the big hit or the big home run. They were the ones who got it.

Obviously, we?d like to wrap this series up as soon as possible. But we know we?re playing the Yankees, and they have a lot of great players. We just need to do what we?ve been doing all year. We can?t afford to get tight. It?s not our personality in this locker room. The veteran guys won?t let us. Besides, we?re still sitting in a pretty good place right now.

People talk about changing the rotation for Game 4, but you?ve got to go with what got you here. Paul Byrd is our fourth starter. I bet you C.C. has never pitched on
such short rest, so you never Byrd_blog_3
know what you?re going to get. And it?s not just our goal to win this series.
We want to win the World Series. We want to win the whole thing.
You go with your guys who pitched well all season. You don?t panic right now, and I think that?s what starting C.C. on short rest would show is panic and making stupid moves. So we?re going to go with the rotation we used to win the best division in baseball.

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