NEW YORK Joe Borowski threw the final strike and the Cleveland Indians ran onto the infield to start the celebration.
Alex Rodriguez, one leg on the top step of the New York Yankees dugout, the other a step below, stared straight ahead.
The Indians were on their way to an AL championship series matchup with the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees were braced for a showdown with their boss, one that could cost Joe Torre his job.
Believe it, Indians fans. Grady Sizemore homered to put Cleveland ahead for good on the third pitch of the game, then Paul Byrd and the bullpen closed out New York 6-4 in Game 4 Monday night to complete 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."
Torre 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.
Cleveland moves on to its first ALCS since 1998, opening Friday night at Boston. The Indians were only 2-5 against the Red Sox this season, but will have aces C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona fully rested for Fenway Park.
The Indians, winless in six tries against the Yankees during the regular season, 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 owner George Steinbrenner, who said over the weekend that he didn't think he'd keep Torre as manager if New York bowed with another early exit.
Steinbrenner, looking grim, 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 of multimillionaires has lost 13 of its last 17 postseason games and gone seven years in a row with no championship.
If Torre does depart, Don Mattingly and Joe Girardi are the leading candidates to replace him.
The pesky Indians, who wasted a three-run lead in Game 3, chased Chien-Ming Wang in the second and burst ahead 4-0. Byrd kept wiggling out of trouble, and Victor Martinez's two-run single made it 6-1 in the fourth against reliever Mike Mussina.
Once again, the Indians did their best hitting with two outs. Throughout the series, they were the ones who got the clutch hits.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.
Red Sox vs. Indians
Game 1: Friday, at Boston, 5:10 p.m.
D-backs vs. Rockies
Game 1: Thursday, at Phoenix, 6:37 p.m.