Byrd extends scoreless streak in win

Byrd extends scoreless streak in win

CLEVELAND -- Peer pressure is a powerful thing.

When Paul Byrd took the mound for Tuesday's series opener with the A's, he had a potent precedent to uphold. Indians' starters C.C. Sabathia, Aaron Laffey, Fausto Carmona and Cliff Lee hadn't allowed a run in their last 27 innings of work, and Byrd was feeling the pressure to keep that stretch going.

"Going after these guys," Byrd said with a smile, "you feel like a loser if you give up a run."

Byrd didn't give up a run in this 4-0 victory over the A's in front of 16,974 at Progressive Field, and the starters' streak now stands at 34.

In fact, Tribe pitching has now held the opposition scoreless in four of the team's last seven games.

If it's peer pressure that's promoting this penchant for putouts and punchouts, then manager Eric Wedge is all for it.

"You like to have that friendly competition," Wedge said. "You try to keep moving it on down the line and keep trying to one-up one another. I think these guys are feeding off each other right now."

The pitchers, of late, have also been the beneficiaries of the Indians' strongest display of defense to date. And the gloves were particularly helpful to Byrd on this night.

In the second inning, Frank Thomas was streaking home with what would have been the game's tying run, but he was nabbed at the plate by center fielder Grady Sizemore's strike to Victor Martinez. In the third, David Dellucci made a catch against the wall in left to deny Donnie Murphy an extra-base hit. In the fifth, Byrd struck out Murphy, then watched as Martinez gunned down Bobby Crosby's stolen-base attempt at third for a double play.

But the biggest highlight of all came in the eighth, when Byrd was nursing a 1-0 lead and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, one day removed from an unassisted triple play, snagged a Crosby blooper in shallow center with a mesmerizing dive.

"I didn't think there was any way he was going to get to that ball," Wedge said of Cabrera's play. "That was tremendous."

Byrd soaked in all this support and had just one word for it.

"Unbelievable," he said. "If they don't make those plays, who knows what the score of the game is? It's a totally different ballgame. My box score is going to look good in the paper, but ... the reality is they made some great plays, and I very easily could have given up some runs."

Of course, Byrd didn't give up any runs in his 7 1/3 innings of work. All he allowed were five hits with no walks and a season-high seven strikeouts.

Byrd is hardly a strikeout pitcher, and the A's thought the zone was working in his favor.

"He got some [generous] calls outside and stayed outside," Thomas said. "That's his game. If he doesn't have to throw strikes, he won't. But he was painting that outside black. He was hitting his spots."

Following another Tribe trend, the Indians didn't do much hitting at all in this game. But they strung together enough runs to get by.

The first and only run off A's starter Justin Duchscherer came in the first inning, when Travis Hafner ripped a single up the middle to score Dellucci from second. Other than that, the Indians couldn't get anything going off Duchscherer, who gave them fits in a start in Oakland earlier this season.

But with Duchscherer and Byrd out of the ballgame in the bottom of the eighth, the Indians' bats negated the need to bring in closer Rafael Betancourt in the ninth.

With two outs, Martinez drew a walk off Alan Embree and Hafner followed with a single. The A's brought out former Indians reliever Andrew Brown to face Ryan Garko, who smacked a three-run homer into the Tribe bullpen to seal it.

Rather than turn to Betancourt, who has been shaky this season, the Indians were able to stick with setup man Masa Kobayashi for a second inning, as a result of Garko's blast. Kobayashi came through with his first Major League save.

"That was nice, because who knows what can happen in a one-run game [in the ninth]?" Garko said. "One swing can change the game."

The Indians have plenty of experience with tight ballgames this season, and that's both an indictment of their offense and a testament to their starting pitching, which has been as good as it gets in the American League.

But this recent display from the starters has really been a sight to behold.

"It's been unbelievable," Hafner said. "They've gone above and beyond what they've been asked to do."

Byrd was asked to feed off the pressure of his peers in this outing, and he delivered.

"Everybody's kind of in a groove right now," he said. "It's kind of nice to have all the pitchers clicking at once. I feel like every time I show up at the park, whoever is on the hill is going to give the team a good, quality performance. It's a good feeling."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.