Byrd dogged early as Tribe falls
Indians' magic number reduced anyway as Tigers lose
CLEVELAND -- The weak popup sailed to the left side of the infield, entirely catchable and ready to be labeled the final out of the inning.But this popup fell before the befuddled faces of Paul Byrd, Kelly Shoppach and Casey Blake. It should have been an out. Instead, it was a single that opened the door to a two-run inning for the A's. No, the misplayed second-inning popup off Mark Ellis' bat was not the Indians' only mistake in a 9-3 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 40,663 at Jacobs Field on Saturday night. Yet it stood as a telling representation of what transpired on a night in which the Indians had a chance to grab the American League Central title, only to watch it drop away from their outstretched hands. "It seems like it just stemmed from there," manager Eric Wedge said. "That was one of those funky popups. It was not very high. It was in-between, and nobody took charge. It was one of those fluke things you see in baseball." Not all of what Wedge and the Indians saw on this night was bad. About 170 miles away in Motown, the Royals put the finishing touches on a 7-4 win over the Tigers. Detroit's defeat knocked the Tribe's magic number for clinching the division down to one, so Sunday's series finale with the A's gives the Indians one last chance of locking this thing up at home. Beating Oakland, or having Kansas City handle the Tigers again, would give the Indians the AL Central crown. And they've already guaranteed themselves at least a tie atop the division standings this season. So they've got that going for them, which is nice. But not much was nice in this loss. Paul Byrd had a rough start, and Tom Mastny's relief work wasn't any better. And it didn't help matters much that A's starter Dan Haren was downright dominant for six innings. "We just didn't have it going on," Wedge said. No, they did not. And that simple fact began with Byrd's outing. He took responsibility for the popup mishap. Apparently, he called out for Blake to make the grab, but Blake was playing too far back to get to the ball in time. Shoppach or Byrd would have had a much easier time catching it.
|"I needed to do a better job on the hill tonight. It wasn't my night."|
|-- Paul Byrd|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.