Indians 8, Red Sox 4
BOSTON (AP)—Even the most selective team in the league couldn’t coax a walk out of Paul Byrd.
Putting his pitches where he wanted, Byrd extended his walkless streak to 43 innings and threw first-pitch strikes to 25 of 27 hitters as the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Red Sox 8-4 Wednesday night.
“I don’t know that I take pride in a walk streak. I take a lot of pride in making them earn their way to first base,” he said.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Boston (36-16), which has the best record in the majors. Cleveland (32-19), with the AL’s second best record, overcame a 2-0 deficit after four innings and avoided being swept in the three-game series.
Byrd (6-1), who won his fifth straight decision, issued his last walk more than a month ago—to Kenny Lofton of Texas on April 26—and has gone six games without throwing four balls on any at batter. The only Cleveland pitcher in the last 50 years with a longer streak than 43 innings is Dick Donovan, who went 45 1-3 in 1963. In 58 innings this year, Byrd has walked just three.
Stopping the Red Sox from walking is impressive, considering they lead the league with 221. Cleveland catcher Kelly Shoppach said Byrd’s ability to throw pitches close to the plate, but not down the middle, entices opponents to swing.
“They may not get the pitches they want to hit. That’s why they take them,” Shoppach said. “As a pitcher and catcher, we want to attack them. We want them to swing the bat.”
Shoppach was the most productive swinger with a career-high four hits, including a solo homer in the eighth. The former Boston farmhand led Cleveland’s season-high 18-hit attack. Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-3) allowed 12 in 5 2-3 innings.
“Not only my fastball, but, overall, I think I had problems with my control,” he said.
Matsuzaka didn’t walk anyone but left more pitches over the plate than Byrd.
And he didn’t get his usual support. In his previous 10 starts, the Red Sox scored 63 runs for him. But they hadn’t faced Byrd yet.
“We knew coming in he is not going to walk anybody,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “You have to hit him to beat him.”
Trailing 2-0, Byrd shut down Boston until Cleveland tied the game in the fifth and went ahead 6-2 in the sixth.
“He’s aggressive,” Shoppach said. “If they’re not knocking him all over the place, they’re not giving us a reason to change our game plan.”
Matsuzaka had won his previous six decisions but was driven from the game in the sixth when he allowed four runs despite getting help from a poor call by second base umpire Rick Reed.
Shoppach then singled Barfield to second. But Barfield rounded the base and was called out trying to get back when left fielder Manny Ramirez threw behind him to Dustin Pedroia, who swiped at the runner. Barfield and manager Eric Wedge argued and replays showed Pedroia missed Barfield by a wide margin.
“I don’t know if he struggled as much as they hit him,” Boston catcher Jason Varitek said. “They were able to get one pitch each at-bat.”
Kevin Youkilis extended his hitting streak to a career-best 22 games, but his stretch of multihit games ended at nine. He made a costly out in the seventh when the Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs on three singles that knocked Byrd out of the game.
Youkilis struck out for the second out before David Ortiz lined the ball just foul past the right field pole then was retired on a soft liner.
Mike Lowell added a two-run homer, his 10th, in the eighth.
Boston had taken a 2-0 lead on RBI grounders by Varitek in the second and J.D. Drew in the fourth. Cleveland tied it in the fifth on a single by Shoppach, a double by Sizemore, a run-scoring groundout by Casey Blake and an RBI double by Travis Hafner.
Ramirez turned 35 years old on Wednesday. … Cleveland starters have walked fewer than three batters in the last 16 games … Lowell extended his home hitting streak to 22 games. … Blake and Pedroia extended their hitting streaks to 10 games.