Coming off a crucial victory in their battle for the AL Central title, the Cleveland Indians should be very happy to make the trip south to face the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Their scheduled starting pitcher for Friday’s series opener, however, might not necessarily be cause for optimism.
The Indians hope Paul Byrd can rebound from his shortest outing of the season Friday night and earn his first win at Tropicana Field as Cleveland looks to extend its dominance of the lowly Devil Rays.
Cleveland (66-54) has won 12 of the last 13 meetings with Tampa Bay (46-74), outscoring it by 30 runs during that span. The lone loss, though, came at Tropicana Field on April 21 as Byrd allowed six runs - four earned - and 10 hits in six innings of a 6-5 defeat.
Byrd (10-5, 4.53 ERA) has struggled at Tampa, going 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA in three career starts there. The right-hander is also coming off a rough outing, having been battered for seven runs and seven hits in the second inning by the New York Yankees in an 11-2 loss Saturday.
Byrd departed after the second, exiting a game before the fifth inning for only the second time in 22 starts this season.
“Everything I tried to throw didn’t work,” Byrd told the team’s official Web site.
He’ll look to rebound in the opener of a nine-game road trip, as he’s 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 10 road starts this season, including a four-hitter Aug. 6 at Minnesota in a 4-0 win.
The Indians earned a much-needed 5-2 victory over Detroit on Wednesday, giving them a split of a key two-game set and ending a season high-tying four-game slide. The victory over the club Cleveland is fighting for the division lead came after manager Eric Wedge criticized his players following Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Tigers.
“You have to put a lot more stock in a game like this,” Wedge said. “This was a big win for us.”
Cleveland is 7-4 on the road since the All-Star break, compared to 7-14 at home, and will be facing a Devil Rays team that owns the worst record in the majors.
Tampa Bay, though, is coming off a 6-5 win at Boston on Wednesday, as it knocked around Red Sox star Daisuke Matsuzaka in building a 6-0 lead and hung on for the victory. The Devil Rays had managed two total runs in dropping their previous three games.
Tampa Bay hopes Edwin Jackson (3-11, 5.84) can replicate his last outing as he looks to win consecutive starts in a season for the first time in his career. The 23-year-old right-hander threw a four-hitter and struck out eight Saturday in a 3-0 win at Texas.
“When he gets deep into the game, he starts throwing the ball aggressively,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He still had 99 (mph) in the tank. I like it when guys smell it like that.
“I see confidence more than anything. I believe that’s the kind of performance that will elevate him even more.”
Once considered one of baseball’s top pitching prospects while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jackson has a 0.86 ERA in his last three starts and hasn’t allowed an earned run in three of his last five outings.
Jackson is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against Cleveland, both coming this season. He pitched six innings in each game, but Tampa Bay’s lineup managed only four runs combined and lost both contests by one run.
Rays left fielder Carl Crawford looks to continue his hot hitting after going 2-for-5 with a stolen base Wednesday, giving him a .438 average in his last 27 games along with 15 steals. He struggled in the last meeting with the Indians, though, going 2-for-12 with five strikeouts during Cleveland’s three-game sweep from June 29-July 2.
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