Byrd, Tribe overpowered by Twins
Two Minnesota homers help Cleveland drop sixth straight
MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians right-hander Paul Byrd has struggled all season keeping the ball in the park. On Friday at the Metrodome, even while facing the least-powerful team in the league, it haunted him once again.Minnesota beat Cleveland, 12-3, on the power of two home runs, including a three-run shot by Delmon Young in the third inning, before adding on late against a revamped Tribe bullpen. The Twins entered the game last in the American League in home runs. "This has been as tough a month and a half as I have ever had in the big leagues," Byrd said. "My arm feels great, I feel like I have a good fastball. [I'm] just not able to get through the game without giving up a lot of runs, and I can't figure it out." Byrd (3-10, 5.53 ERA) is 1-6 with a 7.85 ERA in seven starts since the beginning of June. He gave up six earned runs on eight hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Twins. It continued Byrd's struggles away from Cleveland -- he is 1-8 in 10 road starts this season. Minnesota's Nick Punto started the scoring in the first by blasting his first home run of the season 405 feet to center on a 3-1 fastball. It was Punto's first home run in 356 at-bats dating back over a year. The Twins doubled the lead with a Brian Buscher RBI double to center field in the second inning. Cleveland tied it up in the third inning when Kelly Shoppach hit an 82-mph fastball from Twins starter Livan Hernandez over the center-field fence for a two-run homer. But the long ball came back to bite Byrd again in the bottom of the third. After securing the first two outs of the inning, the right-hander walked Justin Morneau and allowed a double to Jason Kubel. Byrd then hung a 1-1 curveball to Young, who blasted it over the left-field fence for a three-run homer, giving the Twins a 5-2 lead. Byrd has now allowed an American League-most 23 home runs. "He's typically given up home runs, but he's been able to control the damage in between, I think that's the difference," manager Eric Wedge said. "You need them to be solo shots, you need to keep from walking people or getting behind hitters, and that's what he's done when he's been successful." While searching for answers after the game, Byrd said that he didn't know if he was tipping his pitches or if his pitches just lacked life. He was sure of the game's turning point, however. "[Punto's home run] didn't break our back, but the three-run homer did, especially after we scored some runs [via homers by Shoppach and Ben Francisco] and I gave them a comfortable lead right back," Byrd said. "So that was an extremely frustrating situation where I hung a curveball and he put it in the left-field seats. "I just hung it -- and it was high -- and he crushed it. That's what he should have done with that pitch. It's just frustrating for me to throw that pitch in that situation, when for the most part, I was hitting my spots, had good location, had a good thing going." Said Young: "You never know when this Cleveland offense is going to explode, so you've got to try to put up as many runs as you can." It turned out that it was Minnesota's offense that would break out over the next five innings while Cleveland's stagnated. The Twins tacked on two runs in the seventh and four more in the eighth against a Cleveland bullpen in upheaval.
Earlier in the day, the club designated struggling closer Joe Borowski for assignment -- along with seldom-used reliever Rick Bauer -- while calling up relievers Jensen Lewis and Brian Slocum from Triple-A Buffalo. The club's hope for improvement to the struggling relief corps, at least on Friday, didn't come to fruition.Lewis relieved Byrd and gave up two earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of relief. Slocum took over for Lewis and surrendered four earned runs while only securing two outs on 22 pitches. "It's their first time back," Wedge said. "Obviously they both had their struggles tonight, but hopefully they can learn from it and be better next time." The Indians have lost six in a row. The Twins have won 16 of 19. "It seems like it is somewhat of a snowball effect right now," Casey Blake said. "The club is hurting, been hurting for quite a while. What are you going to do? Just quit and go home? We are competitors in here. We are going to show up [and] play hard."
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.