CLEVELAND -- Paul Byrd got a little philosophical Saturday night, because that's the kind of thing ballplayers do when seasons take unexpectedly tough turns. "A friend of mine once told me," Byrd said, "'The best way to have a nervous breakdown is to try not to have one.'" The lesson in that message is to relax and to not press.
If only the Yankees had relaxed and not pressed so many runs upon Byrd and the Indians pitching staff. Then Byrd wouldn't be spilling such deep thoughts to the media in the wake of the 11-2 thumping his club endured in front of a soldout crowd of 41,977 at Jacobs Field. The Yanks have been making mincemeat out of a number of pitchers in recent weeks, so Byrd, who surrendered seven second-inning runs before making an early exit in this one, can at least take solace in the fact that he's not alone. "They're hot right now," Byrd said of the Yankees. "This is not the same team that took the field in April and May." Actually, the Yankees team that took the field in April handed the Indians a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium. And after this loss, the Tribe is on the verge of another brush with the brooms. Where the Tribe is concerned, this is no time to be humbled. This series could have American League Wild Card implications down the road. And in the more present tense, the Tigers' victory over the A's cut the Tribe's AL Central lead down to half a game. The major culprit in this particular loss was Byrd's rough outing. But, in keeping with a recent trend, the offense did next to nothing to help. Mike Mussina looked like the Mussina of 1997, not '07, in holding the Indians to a pair of runs on eight hits over 7 2/3 innings. "He threw a good ballgame," manager Eric Wedge said of Mussina. "He has so many variations of his breaking ball, and as the game went on, he used his changeup more effectively. We never got it going." The Indians did actually have a lead in this ballgame, at one point. It came when they manufactured a run off Mussina in the first. But that lead didn't last long, as the Yankees pounced on Byrd's pitches in the decisive second. With two on, Melky Cabrera lifted a sacrifice fly to left to bring in the inning's first run. The Yankees loaded the bases for the top of their order, and Johnny Damon drove in a pair with a line-drive double to right to make it 3-1. After striking out Derek Jeter, Byrd had a chance to escape further damage when he had an 0-2 count on Bobby Abreu. But when Byrd tried to sneak a changeup past Abreu, it was pounded into left field for a two-run single. "That was the straw that broke the camel's back," Byrd said. "That really crushed me." More crushing came in the form of Alex Rodriguez's ensuing two-run blast over the center-field wall. That capped the big inning. "Everything I tried to throw didn't work," said Byrd, whose two innings of work made for his shortest outing of the season. And everything Mussina threw worked quite well. Then again, everything the Yankees have been tossing the Indians' way this season has worked. The Tribe has batted just .209 against the Yanks in 2007. This night didn't get any better when reliever Ed Mujica coughed up three more runs in the game's final two innings. A-Rod took Mujica deep for his second homer, giving him six blasts in five games against the Indians this season. The Indians could certainly use that kind of production from any member of their lineup right now. But Byrd, for one, doesn't think they'll get it unless they learn to relax. "You have to play baseball the way you know how," he said, getting philosophical again. "We feel we're in a little bit of a slide right now. We have time to turn that around, and we all realize that. But you can't do it by pressing."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.