The Cleveland Indians now know their division series opponent. They still have something to play for, though, down the line.
The Indians continue their fight for home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs as their season-ending three-game series continues Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.
Cleveland (95-65) already wrapped up the AL Central, and found out its division series opponents will be the New York Yankees, who were relegated to the wild card spot after the Boston Red Sox clinched the East on Friday night. But the Indians must finish ahead of the Red Sox, who will play the West champion Los Angeles Angels, to host the first two games of a potential league championship series since Boston holds the tiebreaker after winning the season series 5-2.
“In regard to who we’re going to play, I haven’t put any thought or time into it just yet,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “It looks like we’re going to be at home. That was one of the goals we were shooting for.”
The Indians wrapped up home field for the ALDS with a 5-3 victory on Friday. C.C. Sabathia won his 19th game, and survived a brief scare after being hit on the forearm with a line drive, but he is ready to face the Yankees.
“I haven’t faced them since ’04,” Sabathia said. “I don’t remember the last time I faced them. I’ll have to look at some tape and see. Their hitters are probably a little different and I’m a little different since 2004.
“I’m just looking forward to playing in the postseason and give us a chance to go out and try to win a ring,” he said. “Bring them on. We’re excited.”
Jake Westbrook (6-9, 4.32 ERA) seeks his second straight victory in a bid to close the season strong. He stifled the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, giving up two runs and four hits while striking out a career-high nine in seven innings of a 6-2 victory that clinched the AL Central for the Indians.
“My season had not gone the way I wanted it to, personally,” Westbrook told the Indians’ official Web site. “But to be a part of this team and pitching in big ballgames in the second half has been great.”
Westbrook is vying with Paul Byrd to be the Indians’ No. 3 starter for the playoffs.
The Royals (68-92), who will not lose 100 games for the first time since 2003, have lost three straight and are relegated to their fourth consecutive last-place finish in the Central. Friday’s loss was Kansas City’s 16th in its last 22 games.
Despite his losing record, Gil Meche (9-13, 3.69) appears to be worth the five-year, $55 million investment the Royals made in the offseason as their key free agent acquisition. His ERA is a career low, Meche has logged a career-high 210 innings, and is seven strikeouts shy of matching his career high of 156 set last season.
Meche received little offensive support Monday at Baltimore, losing 5-4 to the Orioles despite giving up three runs in eight innings. The right-hander has conceded three runs or fewer in each of his last nine starts and has done so in 24 of his 33 outings, but is only 8-7 in those games.
One of those quality outings came against the Indians on Aug. 26, when he limited them to two runs in six innings before Kansas City lost 5-3 in 11 innings. Meche, though, did defeat Cleveland on July 14 despite being reached for four runs and eight hits in five innings.
He is 2-6 with a 5.55 ERA in 11 lifetime starts versus Cleveland.