Nobody has been able to score off Paul Byrd this season, regardless of whether the game has counted.
Byrd (1-0, 0.00 ERA) has officially made only one start in 2007, a 4-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox last Saturday in which he allowed five hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings.
He also started at home against the Mariners on April 6. In that contest, Byrd held a 4-0 lead and had not allowed a hit when the game was called due to snow in the top of the fifth inning - one out away from being official.
“I was very angry,” Byrd said of the snowout after finally earning a win last Saturday. “I found myself in the middle of this game talking about that one. I’m excited to pitch in one that counted. I told my wife this morning that I felt like the school bus had left and I missed it.”
Byrd is 1-1 with a 5.70 ERA in five career starts versus the Devil Rays, and may receive good support if Travis Hafner continues his hot hitting. The designated hitter had his third consecutive three-hit game in Friday night’s series opener, hitting a two-run homer and the go-ahead single in the ninth inning to lift the Indians (7-6) to a 4-3 victory.
“He’s different,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said of Hafner, who is 11-for-15 in the last four games and has reached base safely in nine straight plate appearances. “He plays in that other league that’s above this league when it’s established, and quite frankly I wish he’d go there tomorrow.
“He’s one of the better hitters in all of baseball. He always works a good at-bat. He’s just very good.”
Cleveland bounced back after getting outscored 27-11 in a three-game sweep to the Yankees at New York, which included a blown four-run lead in the ninth inning of Thursday’s 8-6 defeat.
Hafner has enjoyed great success in his limited meetings with Tampa Bay starter Jae Seo (0-1, 7.71), going 3-for-4 with a homer and two doubles.
Few hitters have found Seo a mystery in his first three starts of 2007, as he has compiled a .384 (28-for-73) opponent batting average. The Korean-born right-hander had his longest outing of the season Sunday at Minnesota, where he yielded four runs and nine hits in seven innings, but did not factor in the Devil Rays’ 6-4 win.
Seo is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in three starts against the Indians, and has failed to pitch beyond the fifth inning in any of those outings.
Pitching continues to be a problem for the Devil Rays, whose 6.09 staff ERA is the highest in the majors. Last season, Tampa Bay’s 4.96 ERA ranked 27th in baseball.
Cleveland will be looking for its eighth straight win over the Devil Rays (6-10).