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06/28/08 11:59 PM ET
Byrd left without support in loss to Reds
Indians miss out on chances against rookie Cueto
By Andrew Gribble / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- At the halfway point of the season, most thought the Tribe would be looking ahead to postseason play. Instead, Eric Wedge is simply looking for baby steps. The Tribe manager didn't see any progress Saturday night as the Indians treated 39,506 fans to the type of baseball that's left them struggling to get out of the American League Central basement. After the Tribe's 5-0 loss to the Reds, Wedge was left talking about the need to see progress from his players' at-bats instead of being "result-oriented."
"Even if we don't have success and even if we don't come through in particular situations, I want them to make progress," Wedge said. "Eventually, you'll get there, but we're a much more inexperienced team now."
The results weren't good Saturday. Despite putting runners on base in every inning but one, the Tribe came away with nothing, leaving 12 runners on base.
"It just takes each individual to be more comfortable, be more confident and to have that inner drive to get it done," Wedge said. "And if you don't get it done ... we'll get it done the next time."
Time and time again, the 37-44 Indians simply haven't gotten it done this season. After two promising nights of lights-out pitching and timely hitting, the Indians resumed their knack for falling behind early while making no real threats to come back late.
"We need to find a way to turn it around," starter Paul Byrd said. "We've been saying it for a while now and it just seems like it's those little things, like that timely hit. Instead of us getting it, it's the other team this year.
"We have to find out how to turn that around and make it be us instead of them."
"Them" on this night was the 37-45 Reds, another young club plagued with similar troubles. They needed just two timely hits to put the game well out of reach.
The first came early when Adam Dunn lined a Byrd changeup to right field that skipped over the fence for an early 1-0 advantage.
"It was up a little bit and he crushed it," said Byrd, who has given up a Major League-most 21 home runs this season. "He's a great hitter."
Scuffling with his control throughout, Byrd did just enough to get by in the second and third before the Reds' second big blow in the fourth put the game away.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Byrd hung a curveball to Paul Bako, who promptly sent it to the left-field corner, clearing the bases.
"That's what the game came down to for me," Byrd said.
Said Wedge, "That was the separator."
Other than that, Byrd, who said he had his best fastball in two years, gave the Indians a solid start, allowing just one runner to reach base in his final two innings. It just wasn't perfect, which is what the Indians needed.
"Birdie gave us a chance to win the ballgame," Wedge said. "When he left the ball game, I still thought we had a chance to win. We created some opportunities, but we didn't come through. We've got to be better."
The opportunities came in nearly every inning against rookie Johnny Cueto, but none was more promising than the second.
With runners on second and third and only one out, Ryan Garko kept them planted with a soft liner to second baseman Brandon Phillips for two outs. And with the bases loaded after Franklin Gutierrez took a fastball to the side, Sal Fasano went down swinging on three pitches.
"You take advantage of one chance and get one or two runs, it's a totally different ballgame," Wedge said. "That's when you have to baby step through a ballgame, and we didn't do that tonight."
One more promising rally went to waste in the seventh when the Tribe once again had runners on second and third with one out. And again, nothing came out of it after Jamey Carroll lined out and Ben Francisco struck out.
"This is a different ballclub and guys are in different roles and different areas of the lineup, so they're going to be up in different situations," Wedge said. "Maybe the situation is going to be magnified. That's where they need to control their heartbeat. That's where they need to focus."
The focus now, Wedge said, is simply progress. Without four key members from the 2007 squad because of injuries and without the clutch hitting that made any game seem within reach -- no matter the deficit -- the Indians are still searching for answers halfway through the season.
"It's been an odd year, obviously," Wedge said.
Andrew Gribble is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.