05/05/07 1:04 AM ET
Tribe drops opener in extras
Four-game winning streak snapped; Byrd has solid outing
By Pete Kerzel / Special to MLB.com
Once manager Eric Wedge was forced to go to the bullpen to protect a one-run advantage, he knew the Indians would need a little bit of luck or a timely hit to extend a four-game winning streak. Instead, Cleveland's offense could muster only six hits and neither luck nor strong relief were on the Indians' side.
Nick Markakis tied the game with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly against Rafael Betancourt, then hit the game-winning single off Tom Mastny in the 10th inning, and Cleveland's winning streak was halted in a 3-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
"We've been playing really well," said Byrd, who went 6 2/3 innings, allowing a run on six hits and striking out three without a walk. "You don't want to get too upset or let it get you in a funk. The other team pitched a little better at the end and got the hits when they needed to and just made it happen. Nothing you can hang your head about."
The Indians have still won 10 of 12 games and remained in first place in the American League Central, a game ahead of Detroit.
But a well-placed bunt that might not have gone in the intended direction and an ill-timed decision that turned into a throwing error conspired against the Tribe, playing against a Baltimore club which had dropped nine of 10 games and fallen into last place in the AL East.
"You saw how the game was playing out and the way these guys were pitching," Wedge said. "You knew the opportunities offensively were going to be few and far between. Whoever took advantage of a mistake or stepped up [was going to win]."
Jay Payton led off the 10th with a single to center. Corey Patterson then dragged a perfect bunt single to the second-base side of the mound, and Mastny (2-1) threw the ball away, allowing Payton to move to third.
"It was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt," Mastny said. "I don't know how it went [to second]. That's just a perfect place for a bunt anyway. It's kind of no-man's land. The first baseman doesn't know to charge. ... Looking back on it, I probably should have held the ball and not thrown it. But in the spur of the moment, you're trying to get an out."
Brian Roberts was intentionally walked to load the bases before Markakis singled down the right-field line against a drawn-in infield, plating Payton. Markakis, who came into the game in a 5-for-35 slump, was an unlikely hero.
"Just because he's struggling doesn't mean he can't hit," Mastny said of Markakis. "In that situation, you have to go after the hitter. There's nowhere to put him. With the infield playing in, he made contact. He did a good job of hitting."
Byrd seemed primed to continue the Tribe's recent binge. The only run the Orioles could manage off him came in the third, when Payton hit a solo homer with one down. And even that came off the pitch Byrd wanted to make.
"It was a great pitch -- a split-finger fastball that a lot of right-handers have been swinging over," Byrd said. "I throw it in that location, and he has short arms and a quick bat and I don't like pitching him in. I tried to throw it away but I was happy with the pitch when it left my hand."
Byrd credited pitching coach Carl Willis and bullpen coach Luis Isaac with a pregame tweak in the bullpen that lengthened his stride and put some more pop on his fastball. As strong as Byrd was, Baltimore left-hander Erik Bedard may have been even better. Bedard retired the first 11 Indians in order before Travis Hafner drew a two-out walk on a full count in the fourth.
"[Bedard's] been tough on us time and time again. We're still trying to figure him out," Wedge said.
Bedard's no-hit bid remained intact until Jhonny Peralta singled on the second pitch of the fifth. Casey Blake then curled a 2-2 pitch inside the left-field foul pole for his third homer of the year and a 2-1 lead.
Bedard gave up three hits over six innings, walking two and fanning four.
The Orioles got a two-out double by Markakis in the sixth and a one-out double by Aubrey Huff in the seventh, but couldn't cash either runner in. Byrd departed after getting Melvin Mora to ground out for the second out in the sixth, and Aaron Fultz struck out Jay Gibbons to end the inning.
But Baltimore tied the game in the eighth off Betancourt, who got into trouble after catching Payton looking for the first out. Patterson doubled to center and moved to third on Roberts' single to left. Patterson briefly retreated to second, thinking the ball was going to be gloved by Blake at third, or he probably would have scored.
Given another chance to wriggle out of the jam, Betancourt instead allowed Markakis to hit an opposite-field, game-tying sacrifice fly.
Chris Ray (3-2) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.
Except for Blake's homer, the Indians had more than one baserunner in only one inning -- the sixth -- when Jason Michaels singled and Hafner drew a walk.
"We didn't do a very good job in hitter's counts today. ... When we had some opportunities, when we needed to get a key hit, we couldn't do it," Wedge said.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.