© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
06/06/08 11:25 PM ET
One big inning gives Byrd win No. 100
Blake doubles in two as Indians bring down Verlander, Tigers
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Paul Byrd's 10-year-old son, Colby, has little in common with his old man. Sure, Colby is a pitcher on his Little League team in suburban Cleveland, and he puffs his cheeks out when he delivers the ball, just like his dad. But the comparisons end there. "He's a big strikeout guy," Byrd said of his son. "He's a little wild. He gives up some walks and strikes some people out." Colby, though, was in attendance when Byrd and the Indians beat the Tigers, 4-2, in the opener of a four-game set Friday night at Comerica Park. So perhaps he learned a thing or two from his pop about the value of an efficient, well-pitched effort. That's the type of effort Byrd turned in on a night in which his offense got him one big inning of support against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. And Byrd's effort was rewarded in the form of his 100th career victory -- a mark that did not go unnoticed by the veteran right-hander. "Greg Maddux isn't feeling any heat or anything," Byrd joked of the game's active career wins leader. "But for me, it's a big deal. For me to win 100 games after starting out as a reliever for four years, getting hurt, getting released, getting claimed off waivers, moving around with different teams ... it's really nice for me." It was nice for the Indians, too, because this is a telltale type of series for two clubs who were expected to battle atop the American League Central standings this season. Instead, they find themselves merely fighting to survive in a division led by the surprising White Sox and Twins. The Indians' survival efforts went a little further on this night. Early on, they were merely trying to survive against the hard-throwing Verlander, who no-hit them his first time through the lineup. "When a guy throws that hard and has his changeup working and is throwing a hard breaking ball," manager Eric Wedge said, "you have to be disciplined, and focus to find a pitch to hit." The Indians found those pitches in the fourth. And they also knew which pitches to lay off, which was the real key to a three-run outburst. With one out, Ryan Garko walked, Jhonny Peralta singled and David Dellucci walked to load the bases. Casey Blake took advantage of a curveball that stayed up in the zone and lofted it into left field for a two-run double to break a scoreless tie.
"I didn't really have a chance against [Verlander] my other two at-bats," Blake said. "He just hung a breaking ball, and I was able to do something with it."
Franklin Gutierrez, heating up at the plate of late, also contributed with a line-drive single to left to bring home another run and make it 3-0.
Byrd could breathe easy at that point, and he could focus on his plan of working quickly and working ahead.
"We had some real long games in Texas," Byrd said, "and I wanted to up my tempo and get us on and off the field. I just wanted to change it up a little bit."
Byrd executed that plan for seven innings in which he allowed just two runs -- solo shots by Brandon Inge in the sixth and Jeff Larish in the seventh -- on four hits with no walks and two strikeouts.
"He's one of those guys who uses both sides, kind of keeps you off balance," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Byrd. "We did hit some balls hard at people. You can't help them if you hit them decent and they don't fall in. It's a combination, but he's a crafty guy. He's not going to give in to you."
Having used just 80 pitches, Byrd could have been run back out for the eighth. Instead, he came off the mound after the seventh with a 3-2 lead and received the handshake from Wedge that told him his night was over.
"Wedgie only lets me throw seven innings or 80 pitches, whichever happens first," Byrd said. "It was the right move."
The Indians made their move on the Tigers' bullpen in the eighth, when Garko provided some needed separation with a solo homer off Denny Bautista.
Wedge wanted a fresh arm to preserve the 4-2 lead, and he went with Masa Kobayashi, who turned in an effortless and perfect eighth. Joe Borowski set the Tigers down in the ninth to earn his fifth save of the season and his 50th with the Tribe.
But the win belonged to Byrd, who notched his 100th victory much in the same way he claimed the vast majority of those that preceded it.
"Commanding the baseball," Wedge said. "He knows himself very well. He's a little unorthodox with how he goes about it, but he really has a great feel for what he wants to do with the baseball."
Perhaps Byrd will pass that feel on to his flame-throwing son, who once innocently told his dad, "If you were any good, you'd be pitching for the Yankees."
Byrd can only hope his son was paying attention Friday night.
"I'm hoping for some respect," he said with a smile. "At what point do you gain respect as a father?"
This was a good place to start.
|"For me to win 100 games after starting out as a reliever for four years, getting hurt, getting released, getting claimed off waivers, moving around with different teams ... it's really nice for me."|
|-- 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.