CLEVELAND — Rocked right off the bat, the Cleveland Indians quickly found their October swing.
C.C. Sabathia settled down after giving up a debated homer on his fifth pitch and the Indians returned to the postseason after a six-year absence by thumping the New York Yankees 12-3 in their AL playoff opener.
Alex Rodriguez, you ask? Well, A-Rod never got a chance to repair his tarnished postseason image. Sabathia and three Cleveland relievers simply took the All-Star third baseman's powerful bat out of his hands.
The Indians' inexperience at this time of year was never a factor.
Cleveland's kids were all right.
"They just went out there and played the game," Kenny Lofton said.
Playoff newcomer Victor Martinez hit a two-run homer, rookie Asdrubal Cabrera had a solo shot off Chien-Ming Wang, and Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko homered as the Indians went toe-to-toe with the Bronx Bombers and knocked them flat.
Lofton, one of the few Cleveland players who knows his way around baseball's biggest month, had four RBIs and Casey Blake added two as the Indians, energized by a towel-waving crowd that became accustomed to playoff baseball in the 1990s, roared with every run, every hit and every Yankee out.
A few of them even turned on Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, a devoted New York fan who boldly came to Jacobs Field wearing a Yankees cap. Early on, fans sitting near James behind home plate chanted "Take off the cap," in his direction, and by the sixth inning, he had done just that.
When Hafner's homer off Ross Ohlendorf gave the Indians a 10-3 lead, James turned to his entourage and ordered an exit.
The Yankees, 6-0 against the Indians during the regular season, went nearly as fast. Down 4-3 in the fifth, they only got a meaningless, two-out single in the ninth after Cleveland broke away.
It was the first time New York lost by more than eight runs in the postseason since an 11-1 first-round defeat against Oakland in 2000.
On Friday, the Yankees will turn to veteran Andy Pettitte. Fausto Carmona, Cleveland's other 19-game winner, will oppose him.
"Let's just get over it and lick our wounds and then we'll figure it out," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Indians manager Eric Wedge, another playoff first-timer, was prepared to ride Sabathia as long as needed. If that meant 120 or 130 pitches, Wedge was willing to let his left-hander push his limit.
Wedge never could have imagined that would come after five innings.
Not only did Sabathia, who came in 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA in his career against New York, have to deal with New York's awesome lineup, but plate umpire Bruce Froemming's strike zone was paper thin for the left-hander, who battled through 114 pitches, allowing three runs and four hits in five innings.