NEW YORK -- Tracking down how Cleveland advanced to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1998 via a 6-3 victory on Monday in New York.In < 25 words ...
Clutch two-out hitting with runners in scoring position and Paul Byrd's mound toughness close out the Yankees. Frozen moment
Let's call it the final nail in the Yankees' postseason coffin. Victor Martinez grounded a single between shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, following Mike Mussina's intentional walk issued to Travis Hafner. The two-run base hit, coming on a 1-2 pitch, raised a 4-1 lead to 6-1 and gave Byrd more room to work. Big number
2 -- The amount of earned runs allowed by the Cleveland bullpen over 13 innings. Those runs came on Bobby Abreu's home run off closer Joe Borowski and Rodriguez's seventh-inning home run off Rafael Perez on Monday. But Perez stranded three in two innings to keep the damage to the lone tally, and Borowski finished the job. Game balls
The affable Cleveland manager never wavered when pressed as to why ace C.C. Sabathia wasn't starting on three days' rest Monday night. Byrd was Wedge's man for Game 4, and he came through for the man in charge. From starting Trot Nixon in right field in Game 3 -- Nixon went deep off of Roger Clemens -- to getting young hurlers such as Perez and Jensen Lewis acclimated and into playoff action early on, Wedge served as the perfect playoff leader for the American League Central champions.
No, it wasn't a historically-dominant effort, filled with 20 strikeouts or a low-hit total for the Yankees. But Byrd did exactly what the Indians wanted: change speeds, locate his pitches and give the Tribe a chance to win over five-plus innings.
Sure, he hit into a double play with the bases loaded and the Indians leading, 2-0, in the second. But, hey, the double-play grounder still scored a run, and there was his leadoff homer. Sizemore reached base four times during Monday's win and 11 times overall in the four games.
Sense of October
Back-to-back singles from Jeter and Abreu off Byrd put two runners on base for the Yankees with one out in the first inning. The crowd of 56,315 rose in anticipation as Rodriguez stepped to the plate, with the Most Valuable Player candidate moving in the right direction after Sunday's two-hit effort. Three pitches later, Rodriguez had struck out swinging on an 86 mph fastball. The Yankees didn't score in the opening frame.
3 AB, 2 H, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 HP
Comment: Shoppach stood right in the middle of two two-run rallies in his only start of the Division Series. He was hit by a Chien-Ming Wang pitch on a bunt attempt in the second and led off the fourth with a double.
2 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 HR, 0 K
Comment: Perez relieved Byrd in the sixth inning, trying to protect a four-run lead. Perez gave up singles to pinch-hitter Shelly Duncan and Johnny Damon, putting runners on first and third, but induced Jeter to hit into an inning-ending double play. Perez yielded one Rodriguez home run over three total ALDS outings, covering six innings.
"We never relied on just one single person. It was always someone else or someone new picking each other up. It was fantastic to see a team get that close and have each other's backs like we did." --Borowski
With Sabathia on the mound, Cleveland begins the quest for its first World Series appearance since 1997 in Boston on Friday night.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.