KANSAS CITY -- The playoffs are often viewed as a fresh season. The Indians better hope it is. Considering they now know they'll be facing the Yankees -- a team that beat them six times in six meetings in 2007 -- in next week's American League Division Series, the Tribe can't afford for anything other than a fresh start and a new outcome.
"I don't put a great deal of thought into it," manager Eric Wedge said of the 0-6 mark. "Our thought process now is to prepare for the Yankees of September and October. And the focus is still going to be on how we play." On April 17-19, the Indians dropped three games at Yankee Stadium, with closer Joe Borowski's most memorable blowup of the season coming in the finale. The Indians had a 6-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth of that game and lost, 8-6. On Aug. 10-12, the slumping Tribe bats managed just six total runs in three games, and the Yankees swept them again. "We're a different team now than we were then," Wedge said, "as I'm sure they are, too. It all starts from scratch. That's how it's structured." How are the Indians different? Well, for one, Asdrubal Cabrera wasn't the everyday second baseman and No. 2 hitter (the Indians are 23-5 with him hitting in the No. 2 spot). And the bats, in general, have shown much more life the past 40 games (a .274 average in that span) than they did the last time the two clubs met. But the most important difference between these Indians and the ones the Yankees faced is the presence of ace C.C. Sabathia, who, thanks to a scheduling fluke, didn't face the Yanks this year and hasn't faced them since Sept. 1, 2004. "Their hitters are probably a little different, and I'm a little different since 2004," Sabathia said. "We'll see how it goes." Of course, Sabathia is the only core player on the Indians with postseason experience. This postseason berth is a first for the likes of Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, Ryan Garko, Jhonny Peralta and Casey Blake. The Yankees, on the contrary, have October in their bloodstreams. "I'm sure there's something to be said for experience," Hafner said. "But we're excited. I don't think you need to be experienced to win." One more day: Wedge said he'll wait until Sunday before divulging information about his Game 3 starter in the ALDS. The Indians are choosing between Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd for that outing. "We decided we're going to wait until [Sunday] to release all that," Wedge said. "We know what we're going to do. We've had some conversations with players, to the extent that we already know. We'll just finish that off then. With the way the format is set up, that's just the way it has to work." If the Indians play in the eight-day ALDS that starts Wednesday, they'd only need three starters for the five-game series. If they play in the seven-day version that starts Thursday, they'd likely need four. The AL's top team will pick which version it wants to play. Get a leg up: Kenny Lofton's legs look ready for the postseason. Lofton legged out an RBI triple on Thursday night against the Mariners and again Friday night against the Royals. He obviously wasn't weary after the Indians' red-eye flight from Seattle to Kansas City, which didn't land until close to 6 a.m. CT Friday. Those were Lofton's second and third triples since joining the Indians at the end of July. "Understanding what's about to happen and what's about to start," Lofton said, "my mind and body starts to kick into that extra gear, I think." Them's fighting words: Cavaliers superstar LeBron James might be Cleveland's purported "king," but he isn't backing his countrymen in the ALDS. On a conference call with reporters before his appearance on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," James congratulated the Indians on making the playoffs. But in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer afterward, James said he'll be rooting for the Yanks. "I know a lot of people might not like hearing me say that, but I think everyone knows I've been a Yankee fan my whole life," James told the paper. "They have to deal with it." Tribe tidbits: Hafner has hit safely in six of seven games, batting .522 with two homers and five RBIs in that span. He came into Saturday needing two RBIs to reach 100 for the fourth straight season. "The main goal is just trying to win these games and finish up strong," Hafner said. "But [the 100 mark] would be something that, if it did happen, it would be nice to get that done." ... The Yankees' probable starters for Games 1 and 2 are Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte. Their Game 3 starter could be Roger Clemens, if his tweaked left hamstring holds up. Clemens was shut down last week because of the injury. "You never know with that guy," Wedge said. "He can resurface with the best of 'em." ... The Indians will hold a workout Tuesday afternoon at Jacobs Field, regardless of their playoff scenario. On deck: The Indians and Royals wrap up the regular season with Sunday's 2:10 p.m. ET game at Kauffman Stadium. Left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-2, 4.87 ERA) will oppose right-hander Luke Hochevar (0-0, 0.93).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.