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As Joe Borowski and the Cleveland Indians celebrated out on the infield, Joe Torre walked up the tunnel from the New York Yankees dugout toward the clubhouse &
perhaps for the final time. Thoughts of another season ending early went through his mind.
"It's such an empty feeling," he said. "You think it's going to last forever."
While the Indians' 6-4 victory in Game 4 Monday night advanced them to an AL championship series matchup with the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees wondered whether it was the end of an era &
for Torre, and perhaps Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, too.
George Steinbrenner's title lust remains unsatisfied, and Torre might be swept out. He sounded wistful in what well may have been his final night in pinstripes.
"This has been a great 12 years. Whatever the hell happens from here on out, I'll look back on these 12 years with great, great pleasure," he said, his voice quavering as he tried to avoid choking up. "The 12 years just felt like they were 10 minutes long, to be honest with you."
He wouldn't address his future.
"If I have some options, I'll look at it because I'm certainly not ready to move somewhere and not do anything," the 67-year-old New Yorker said.
Grady Sizemore homered to put Cleveland ahead for good on the third pitch of the game, then Paul rd and the bullpen closed out the third straight first-round debacle for the Yankees.
"This team hasn't had a championship in Cleveland for a long time," said Kenny Lofton, the veteran who hit .375 for the Indians. "This is just an unbelievable feeling to be able just to start this process again."
Cleveland moves on to its first ALCS since 1998, opening Friday night at Fenway Park. The Indians were only 2-5 against the Red Sox this season but will have aces C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona fully rested.
Winless in six tries against the Yankees during the regular season, the Indians are seeking their first World Series title since 1948. The NL championship series starts Thursday night with Colorado at Arizona.
Bewildered New York opens yet another offseason of turmoil, another October over nearly as soon as it began. All eyes will be on Steinbrenner, who said last weekend that he didn't think he'd keep Torre as manager if New York bowed with another early exit.
Looking grim, the owner didn't speak as he left the ballpark.
"Hopefully there will be some reconsideration, but the Boss does what he wants," Johnny Damon said.
General manager Brian Cashman spoke to Steinbrenner after the game.
"All I told him was: 'Sorry, Boss,'" Cashman said.
The owner's reaction?
"Nothing," the GM said.
Torre managed the Yankees to four World Series titles in his first five years and reached the playoffs in all 12 of his seasons. Yet, that might not be enough for Steinbrenner, impatient his team has lost 13 of its last 17 postseason games and gone seven years in a row without a championship. The Yankees have lost four straight postseason series for the first time.
If Torre does depart, Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi are the leading candidates to replace him.
Fans chanted Torre's name when he made two trips to the mound in the eighth inning, handing the ball to Rivera for perhaps the last time in an era that brought the Yankees success they had not enjoyed since the 1950s.
"These fans are very special," Torre sad. "You can feel their heartbeat."
New York overcame a 21-29 start to win the AL wild card but was done in by poor pitching, an insect invasion and the latest October vanishing act by Rodriguez, whose bat was quiet until a solo home run in the seventh.
The pesky Indians, who wasted a three-run lead in Game 3, chased Chien-Ming Wang in the second and burst ahead 4-0. rd kept wiggling out of trouble, and Victor Martinez's two-run single made it 6-1 in the fourth against Mike Mussina.
A day after averting a sweep, New York put runners on in every inning except the eighth. But when it counted, its high-octane offense fell flat once again, with late solo homers by Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Bobby Abreu not enough.
"I got some big outs with guys on base," said rd, who stranded two runners in the first and three in the second.
A disappointed crowd of 56,315 also might have seen Rodriguez in pinstripes for the final time. A likely MVP during the regular season, A-Rod was largely AWOL in the playoffs for the third straight year, striking out with two on in the first and again leading off the third.
Rodriguez, who can opt of his record $252 million, 10-year contract next month, did homer off Rafael Perez in the seventh &
ending a streak of 57 postseason at-bats without an RBI since 2004. He finished 4-for-15 in the series and said he hadn't thought about his big decision.
"One of the reasons I came here was to help this team win a world championship," Rodriguez said. "I have failed at that."
Indians manager Eric Wedge was questioned for not using Sabathia on short rest, but rd came up big. Time after time, the Yankees failed in the clutch, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, leaving them at 6-for-28 in the series and making for another winter of discontent in the Bronx.
At the end, A-Rod stood with one leg on the top step of the dugout and stared straight ahead. His No. 13 looked as huge and unlucky as Ralph Branca's across the Harlem River at the Polo Grounds in 1951.
The Yankees removed the injured Clemens from their active roster before the game and replaced him with LHP Ron Villone.
Indians finish off Yankees
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