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Experienced Yanks take on youthful Indians

CLEVELAND — The New York Yankees have bat boys with more playoff experience than most of the Cleveland Indians.

The big boys from the Bronx have enough World Series rings to fill up a jewelry store's display case. They've owned Octobers, winning 26 championships as the most successful franchise in professional sports.

They've earned their pinstripes in the postseason.

So clearly they have a huge advantage in the first round of these AL playoffs against the Cleveland Indians, a team loaded with young players who have never made a cleat mark on fall baseball's frightening stage.

Derek Jeter, though, has seen his share of fresh-faced playoff teams thrive.

"We lost to Anaheim one year and I don't think they had any experience and went on to win the championship," New York's All-Star shortstop said Wednesday. "We lost to the Florida Marlins and they didn't have any experience. It doesn't make a difference. It's one of those things that if you win they say experience helps and if you don't, then the other team was hungrier."

Jeter's argument aside, there are 19 Yankees on this year's playoff roster who have played in a total of 606 postseason games. On the other side, the Indians have only eight players with 161 games of playoff practice.

Further, New York's Joe Torre, the winningest manager in postseason history, will fill out a Yankees' lineup card for the 120th time in the playoffs. For Cleveland's Eric Wedge, it will be game No. 1.

But don't expect the Indians or their manager to be rattled.

"Yeah, it a bigger stage and more emphasis is going to be put on it," Cleveland closer Joe Borowski said. "It's tough to say right now how it's going to affect us, but being around this team all year, I can't see it being like this big, oh-my-goodness kind of feeling. I've never seen this team feel like there was a situation where it couldn't achieve or couldn't succeed.

"I don't see it being a huge deal."

While the Yankees, who were eliminated in four games last year by Detroit in the opening round and haven't won it all since 2000 (sorry, George), have been here more often, they know nothing is guaranteed once the games begin.

Mostly because they went 6-0 against the Indians this season, the wild card-winning Yankees are favored to take care of Cleveland, making its playoff return after a six-year hiatus.

"They smoked us pretty good at home," said DH Travis Hafner, who sat out the three-game series at Jacobs Field in August with an injured hamstring. "But we feel like we're playing our best baseball of the year now and we've got our pitching lined up so we feel pretty good about that."

C.C. Sabathia will start today's Game 1 for the Indians against New York's Chien-Ming Wang, a matchup of 19-game winners who each have a chance to set the tone for their teams in the best-of-five series.