Kenny Lofton is still seeking a World Series championship as he begins his 11th postseason.
10/05/2007 12:03 PM ET
At 40, Lofton's still providing a spark
It's been a long time since he set the table for Jim Thome, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez in his first postseason with the '95 Indians. But he showed that he's still one of the game's great offensive catalysts in Cleveland's Division Series-opening win against New York on Thursday.
Lofton, now 40, got three hits, knocked in four runs, and tied Rickey Henderson's record with his 33rd career postseason steal.
"That's what keeps me coming back," Lofton told MLB.com. "The reason I'm playing is the excitement that happens down the stretch."
Down the stretch for the Indians, Lofton picked up his play by hitting almost .300 with three triples and 14 RBIs after Aug. 25. He brought his hot bat into Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees Thursday night, when he went 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs in a 12-3 victory.
"He's been a boost for us," manager Eric Wedge said of Lofton, who was acquired shortly before the July 31 trading deadline. "We've used him primarily in the seven-hole, and it really gives the bottom half of the lineup an entirely different feel and look. Kenny's given us a lot more length to our lineup."
This team, says Lofton, is a bit different than the 1995 squad.
"What made '95 so special was we had so many characters," he said. "I felt sorry for [manager Mike] Hargrove. He understood he couldn't control us off the field. But on the field, he knew what we were trying to do."
He continued: "I tell them to just play the game. The media is going to make a big deal out of it, but if you look at it as a game, nothing will change."
Garko wants a late-October blog: For Cleveland's Ryan Garko, getting the chance to play in the postseason is a dream come true. As one of many players keeping an MLBlog for MLB.com during the playoffs, Garko is hoping to be writing for a while.
"I hope this blog goes on for a long time. It's been great seeing how much this city is supporting us right now," he said on MLBlogs.com. "I think all 25 guys in here are realizing that. We're doing everything we possibly can to win this thing and be ready."
Meanwhile, Garko has taken a little bit of time to look back on how the 2007 campaign has gone -- a season during which he batted .289 with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs.
"I took some time Monday to look back and reflect on the good and the bad, personally, for me this season. It was a fun year," he said. "I'm proud of the way it went for me. I never pouted or complained about the position I was put in [being the 25th man on the roster on Opening Day]. I just went out and worked hard. [Manager] Eric [Wedge] said if you go out and work hard and do the right things, it's going to work out. It seems like he was right."
Diamondbacks' Drew carrying hot bat: Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew hit only .238 during the regular season, an average that he wasn't really happy with. But during the final week of the season, Drew hit .414 for the Diamondbacks, and he has carried that hot bat into the first round of the playoffs against the Cubs.
"I've been comfortable for a while, but balls are just starting to fall," Drew told the Arizona Republic. "Hopefully they keep falling. They've been falling at the right time."
Drew gave the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead in Game 1 of the NLDS Wednesday when he hit a home run to right-center field. He later added a second hit and on Thursday night had a two-run triple in addition to a single.
"Sometimes," manager Bob Melvin said, "for the guys who haven't had the numbers they're used to seeing, to wipe the slate clean to an extent kind of gives you a breath of fresh air."
Anderson battles eye, Beckett: An infection in his right eye has made things difficult for Garret Anderson. In the Angels' first game of the American League Division Series versus the Red Sox, Anderson went hitless. But he blamed that more on the pitching of Josh Beckett than any problems with his vision.
"The guy pitched well," Anderson told the Los Angeles Times. "He didn't make many mistakes over the plate. My last at-bat was the only pitch he actually threw me over the plate. Everything else was hitting the corners. It doesn't matter how many eyes you've got, a guy pitching to the corners is going to be pretty tough."
Despite any lingering vision problems, Anderson will bat cleanup in Game Two. The Angels hope to avoid going back to Anaheim down two games after dropping the opener in the five-game series.
"They're all must-win games in the playoffs," Anderson said. "You don't get many opportunities. There are only so many games you play, and you can't afford to give anything away."
Helton starts series with a flourish: Todd Helton waited a decade to play in a postseason game for the Colorado Rockies. He envisioned what his first at-bat would be like, but it is unlikely that he thought of what he actually did. In his first-ever postseason at-bat, Helton hit a triple.
"For his first playoff hit to be a triple, no one probably would have guessed that," teammate Troy Tulowitzki told the Rocky Mountain News.
"Oh, I always think triple out of the box," Helton deadpanned. "No, there's usually got to be a train wreck or something out there for me to get a triple."
Helton hit a drive to center field on the first pitch he saw from Cole Hamels in the second inning. The ball bounced off the angled wall in center away from center fielder Aaron Rowand, allowing Helton to race into the third base. It was only third triple of the year for Helton and led to the Rockies' first run.
"I put myself in a hole," Helton said. "My legs were jelly the rest of the game after running like that."
Arizona's Hammock gets early info: Arizona manager Bob Melvin told his players who was going to be on the postseason roster on Sunday, except for one player. Melvin actually told utility man/catcher Robby Hammock he was going to be on the postseason roster last weekend in Denver.
"I probably told Robby before I should have," Melvin the Arizona Republic.
Melvin was too excited to keep the news from Hammock, who saw his career take a detour in 2004 due to shoulder and knee problems. He missed most of the 2005 season and spent time in the Minors this season.
"Just from the stuff that's happened to me over the years, to be able to be in this situation is just unbelievable," Hammock said. "I'm on Cloud 9 right now."
Clemens ready to start Game 3 of ALDS: The Rocket is ready for liftoff. New York Yankees right-hander Roger Clemens said he is ready to start Game 3 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians after pitching a simulated game Tuesday and feeling no problems in his hamstring.
"Everything went well. I'm ready to go," Clemens told Newsday.
Said general manager Brian Cashman: "He's tested and rested."
Clemens last pitched in a game on Sept. 16 against the Boston Red Sox. While getting ready for his next start, he tweaked his left hamstring and both he and the Yankees have been taking a cautious approach to his recovery.
"I felt like in this kind of situation, a playoff situation, I would have been pitching anyway," Clemens said.
Beckett shines in ALDS opener: Josh Beckett has pitched well in the postseason before, but Wednesday night he was at his best in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Angels. Becket went the distance as he pitched a shutout and allowing only four hits in a 4-0 win.
At one point during the game, he retired 19 straight batters. He ended the night throwing only 108 pitches, 83 of which were strikes.
"I was just out there trying to execute pitches until somebody takes the ball out of my hand and the game's over," Beckett told the Boston Globe. "I never got ahead of myself. It was always one pitch at a time. It didn't matter what was going on. They hit some balls at some guys and I was fortunate."
"He went out and executed his pitches better than he has at any point in the season," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "That was a great performance."
After allowing a leadoff single, Beckett didn't allow another Angels batter to reach base until Vladimir Guerrero singled in the seventh inning. Howie Kendrick collected a single in the eighth and Guerrero had another single in the ninth. Of the 27 outs Beckett recorded, 12 came on ground balls.
"I had a really good sinker today and that's why I had a lot of ground balls," said Beckett. "It's fun to keep your defense on their toes."
Yankees' rookie Ohlendorf gets final spot: As the New York Yankees were deciding who to include on the playoff roster, one spot came down to veteran left-hander Ron Villone or rookie right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, who pitched in 15 games for the Yankees this year.
In the end, the Yankees decided to go with the rookie over the veteran.
"We had to decide if we wanted a lefthander, if that was really more important than deciding on who we think was our best option," Yankees manager Joe Torre told Newsday.
Torre said it was not an easy decision to make between Villone and Ohlendorf.
"Basically I decided that when it came down to clinching the games that we needed to clinch and winning the games we needed to win in the month of September, we really didn't go to [Villone] in the sixth, seventh, eighth innings," Torre said
Soto living a real-life dream with Cubs: Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, a 2001 11th round Draft pick who was a Sept. 1 callup, has impressed the team with outstanding defense and an average over .450 since coming up. So much so, in fact, that he got the call to start behind the plate in Game One of the NLDS.
"Seriously, I woke up and it's a dream come true," Soto told the Chicago Tribune. "I've worked so hard, and now everything is coming to me all at once. I'm having a blast."
At first, Soto admits, he was kind of taken aback by his surroundings. That, however, has changed. "When I first came up here, everything was so surreal," he said, "but now I'm getting out there, getting my hits, helping out the club and I feel I'm ready to play here now."
"He has improved a lot," said Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano. "He has learned a lot and for a young guy like him, it takes awhile to learn this game, but he's mature and confident in himself; that's the most important thing."
White (almost) surely done: For a Major League baseball player, you can't ask for much more than to end your career on a high note. Minnesota Twins veteran Rondell White, who has stated that he is 99 percent certain that 2007 was his final season, did just that with an RBI single in his final at-bat.
"It was a nice way to finish it," White told MLB.com. "I'll leave that one percent open, but I pretty much have my mind made up."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made it a point to remove both White and pending free agent Torii Hunter after the top of the seventh inning of their final game, allowing them to walk off the field on their own terms, not just after the final out of the game with everyone else.
"It was tough with all of them -- Torii, Rondell," Gardenhire said of seeing them step off the field. "For Rondell, it was probably the last time in his career from what he's been saying. Yeah, that's touching to say the least. Classy people, classy players and great careers."
Zimmerman's golden glove touted: The Nationals are touting third baseman Ryan Zimmerman for the Gold Glove Award. St. Louis' Scott Rolen, who won seven of the last nine Gold Gloves at the hot corner in the National League, played just 112 games this season and the race appears wide open.
"I think Ryan Zimmerman, this year, has shown he's a Gold Glove third baseman," general manager Jim Bowden told the Washington Post.
Zimmerman tied for second in the league among third baseman with 23 errors, but he did not commit a miscue over his final 20 games. Also, he led the Majors in total chances by a third baseman with 511.
"This guy saved more runs than he drove in," manager Manny Acta said -- a significant statement, given that Zimmerman led the Nationals with 91 RBI. "He's phenomenal."
Soriano tabbed as Braves' closer: The Braves will have to find a new center fielder next year, but one position they have determined for 2008 is team closer. Rafael Soriano has earned the nod after a strong run this September after the team demoted and then released Bob Wickman.
"I think that's a fair assumption," general manager John Schuerholz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Not just because of [Soriano]; we've got [other] internal possibilities. But that's our intention, to lean in that direction."
As a hard thrower with good control, Soriano seems a natural fit as a closer.
"Doesn't walk a lot of guys, strikes out a lot of guys, and doesn't give up many hits," manager Bobby Cox said. "And he's got great [mental] makeup."
-- Red Line Editorial