That was a bit of a curveball thrown by manager Eric Wedge.
Lofton and Michaels have been divvying up the left-field starts since Lofton's arrival from the Rangers just before the summer trading deadline, with Lofton starting against right-handers and Michaels against left-handers.
But with Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte on the mound in Game 2, Wedge opted to keep the hot-hitting Lofton in the mix and move Michaels to right, bumping Franklin Gutierrez out of his starting spot.
"That was something I decided to do [Thursday] night," Wedge said. "Jason Michaels was for sure. He's seen Pettitte a few times and had success. I like the way he hits left-handers and the energy he brings to the lineup."
Michaels has gone 3-for-8 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a strikeout lifetime against Pettitte.
So why give the start to Lofton, who is a mere 4-for-29 lifetime against Pettitte, and batting just .223 against lefties this season, over Gutierrez, who is 1-for-3 off Pettitte and .330 against lefties?
It's called playing the hot hand.
"The fact of the matter is a guy stepping up and having a night like [Lofton] did [Thursday] night deserves to be in," Wedge said.
Lofton stepped up, all right. He had three hits and four RBIs in the 12-3 thumping of the Yanks. Gutierrez, in his first postseason game, went 0-for-2 with two walks, a run scored and an outstanding diving catch of a fly ball hit by Derek Jeter in the seventh inning.
"Gutierrez deserves to be in there, too," Wedge admitted. "He had a fantastic night in right field for us. But Pettitte's had a little more success against right-handers this season with that cutter. And this allows us to break up our right-handers at the bottom of our lineup."
Lofton batted in his usual seventh spot of the lineup Friday, while Michaels took over Gutierrez's No. 8 spot. Left-handers batted .298 off Pettitte this season, while right-handers hit .282.
Worth a second look?
The controversial leadoff homer Johnny Damon hit Thursday night brought up the undying topic of instant replay.
Damon's homer off C.C. Sabathia was initially ruled foul by umpire Jim Wolf, who was positioned down the first-base line. But first-base umpire Laz Diaz and plate ump Bruce Froemming determined the ball was, indeed, fair. Replays and fan testimony proved them right.
Wedge and general manager Mark Shapiro were both asked for their views on whether or not instant replay should be initiated to help umpires with such fair or foul calls. They had differing opinions.
"The old-school in me just doesn't like [the idea]," Wedge said. "But I couldn't just disregard it. That's a [lousy] answer, but it's something I'd have to think more about before I say yes or no to it. I'll tell you this, anything beyond [fair or foul calls], I'd be against. There's got to be a flow to the game, and the human aspect is a big part of the game."
Shapiro was more matter-of-fact in his response.
"No one's ever given me a good reason why it shouldn't be used," he said. "If it's fast and it's right, why not use it? 'The game's human' is not a good enough reason to not use it."
All down the line:
With six umpires on the field, and, particularly, one down each line, one wouldn't necessarily expect such deliberations over the fair or foul call to be necessary. But Wedge said he could see how Damon's line-drive homer was a tough one for Wolf to read.
"They're not used to being that close, in terms of their sight lines," Wedge said. "On that call, it was Laz and Bruce who got it. The guy that's down the line further is in an area where he hasn't been all year, so you're checking a different flight of the ball. He's there more for that sinking line drive down the line that's fair, a fan interference or a catch. So I can see how that would be tough, from that angle."
Speaking of the umps, Froemming's strike zone came into question. It is uncharacteristic for Sabathia to walk six batters in nine innings, let alone five innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.65 this season was a career best.
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So when the Yankees managed to draw ball four off Sabathia six times in five innings Thursday night, it begged the question: Did the Tribe's ace get squeezed?
Sabathia didn't think so.
"It was my command," he said. "Bruce did a great job behind the plate."
Wedge opted to use left-handed reliever Rafael Perez for a second inning Thursday night, even after the Indians pushed their lead from 9-3 to 11-3 in the bottom of the sixth. "He was the guy there to go out and hold it," Wedge said. "And then when we scored some more runs, I wanted to make sure we kept that separation." Wedge said Perez was available out of the 'pen for Friday's game. ... Lofton's four RBIs were his career high for a postseason game. ... The Indians are 3-2 all-time in postseason series in which they won the first game. ... Tribe vice president of public relations Bob DiBiasio will be the grand marshal of Little Italy's Columbus Day parade at noon ET on Monday. Team mascot Slider, whose Italian heritage is in question, will also be making an appearance.
The Indians will be outbound for New York City following Friday night's game. They'll work out Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium in preparation for Sunday's Game 3. Right-hander Jake Westbrook will make that 6:30 p.m. ET start opposite right-hander Roger Clemens.