August 31, 2014

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Indians: Tribe stops to savor ALCS atmosphere

 Chris Assenheimer
The Chronicle-Telegram
CLEVELAND — Showers kept the Indians from taking the field for a workout on Wednesday at Jacobs Field, but nothing’s going to rain on this parade — an impending ALCS meeting with the Boston Red Sox and an opportunity to advance to the World Series with a win.
“To be able to be in this situation, we’re very excited about it,” said reliever Rafael Betancourt, whose team beat the Yankees in four games to earn the right to take on what is perceived by many to be the best team in baseball. “We’ll just go out and play and see what happens.”
What is expected to happen is a series dictated by pitching, some of the best in the majors in both the rotations and bullpens. There will also be enough offensive stars on display — Boston’s David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and Cleveland’s Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore — to make what should already be a good series even better.
Both teams will work out at Fenway Park today before Game 1 on Friday
(7 p.m.) pits the top two American League Cy Young Award candidates, C.C. Sabathia and Boston’s Josh Beckett, in a battle for early momentum.
Boston will be well-rested after sweeping the Angels in their Division Series showdown, while the Indians won’t have played since clinching their ALDS on Monday night in New York.
The rest is a good thing, according to Indians manager Eric Wedge, with designated hitter Travis Hafner in agreement, saying the playoff games, the first for many on Cleveland’s roster, are more mentally draining than the regular-season ones.
“I always looked at all those off-days in the postseason and thought, ‘Why do they need all those,’” Hafner said. “Now I know why.”
Though they finished tied with Boston for the best record in baseball, the Indians entered the Division Series as an underdog to the Yankees. They’ll be in a similar position against the Red Sox, who enjoy homefield advantage, thanks to their 5-2 regular season record against Cleveland.
“Who cares?” said Cleveland first baseman Ryan Garko of the underdog label. “Let’s just start the games.
“It will be fun to get to Boston and start preparing. I think we’re ready to go.”
We’ll see Friday.
Matchups
The first three pitching matchups have been announced, with Sabathia (1-0, 5.40) and Beckett (1-0, 0.00) squaring off in Game 1 followed by Fausto Carmona
(0-0, 1.00) and right-hander Curt Schilling (1-0, 0.00) on Saturday
(8 p.m.).
Jake Westbrook (0-1, 10.80) is scheduled to start the first game in Cleveland on Monday (7 p.m.) against right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-0, 5.79 ERA).
The Indians went 2-5 against Boston during the regular season, 1-1 against Beckett and Matsuzaka, while losing to Schilling in his only start against them.
Enemy camp
Will having Cleveland’s former minor league operations chief John Farrell as the pitching coach in Boston give the Red Sox an edge?
“Hitters didn’t really deal with him as much ’cause he was more of a pitching guy,” Garko said. “I think more than anything, he just gave you career advice, just another great resource that this organization has.”
Roster roundup
The Indians will most likely wait until the last moment (10 a.m. Friday) if they decide to tweak their postseason roster. They could replace infielder Josh Barfield with outfielder Ben Francisco for a bigger bat, or left-hander Aaron Laffey with Cliff Lee for more experience in the long-relief role.  
Contact Chris Assenheimer
at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.