Russell Martin capped a four-run first inning with a two-run homer, four relievers held Cleveland to one hit over the final four innings and Los Angeles beat the Indians 4-3 on Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep in the first series between the teams at Chavez Ravine.
The Dodgers also made a critical defensive play in the fifth. The Indians were trailing 4-3 with two outs and a runner on first when David Dellucci doubled down the right-field line.
Third base coach Joel Skinner waved Jhonny Peralta home but Andre Ethier slid in the corner to keep the ball from getting past him and relayed to second baseman Luis Maza, whose throw was in plenty of time for Martin to slap the tag on Peralta.
“It was the right thing to do,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “It he doesn’t, they’ll just walk Kelly Shoppach with the pitcher coming up next. So Joel has to be aggressive right there. Ethier cutting the ball off was the key, no doubt about it—because if the ball gets by him, Jhonny’s going to score.”
Chad Billingsley (6-7) allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings for the Dodgers, throwing 108 pitches. All of Cleveland’s runs came in the third on an RBI single by Ryan Garko and run-scoring groundouts by Shin-Soo Choo and Casey Blake.
“He looked like he was getting a little frustrated—a couple of groundballs finding holes and walking a few guys,” Martin said. “I just told him that once things happen, you can’t change them. So you’ve just got to keep your head in the game and keep battling. He did enough to keep us in the game and keep the lead.”
Cleveland’s starting pitchers have failed to go at least five innings in only seven of the team’s last 61 games. Byrd (3-8) appeared to be heading in that direction for the fourth time in his last five outings after giving up four runs and four hits on his first 13 pitches.
Juan Pierre led off the first with a single, Matt Kemp followed with a ground-rule double and James Loney drove in both of them with another double. Martin then hit a 2-2 fastball into the left-field pavilion for his seventh home run. It was the 20th allowed by Byrd, who reached that figure for the fourth straight season.
“That was obviously all the offense we could muster,” manager Joe Torre said. “He had a very low pitch count today. He throws a lot of strikes, but you still have to make up your mind what you want to hit. When you keep looking for the last pitch he threw, that’s when you get into trouble. We need more patience. We’ve got to have a plan.”
Byrd retired 12 of his next 13 batters and limited the Dodgers to just two singles after Martin’s homer. Both of them were in the fifth with none out, but Byrd retired Kemp on a double-play grounder and got Loney to fly out.
“I just have to be positive and look at the fact that I came back and made some good pitches after that. But I’m still frustrated,” Byrd said. “It’s not real fun to turn around after facing four hitters and seeing someone warming up in your bullpen with the score 4-0. That’s a pretty miserable feeling.”
Byrd matched his loss total from last season, when he was 15-8. He dropped his third straight start since recording his 100th career victory on June 6 at Detroit, allowing four runs and seven hits over seven innings. The right-hander is 1-7 with a 7.19 ERA on the road.
“He did a good job keeping in the game,” Martin said. “Everybody had the mind-set that we were going to stay aggressive and hit the first fastball we saw. That’s what we did in the first inning, and then he made an adjustment where he was throwing a lot more off-speed stuff the second and third time through the lineup and keeping the ball down more.”
Peralta was moved up to the cleanup spot for the second time this season and went 2-for-3 with a walk. He led the Indians to back-to-back extra-inning wins with a tiebreaking two-run double in the 10th inning of Friday night’s series opener and a go-ahead RBI single in the 11th on Saturday.
Omar Vizquel should expect quite a homecoming Tuesday when the Indians host his San Francisco Giants in the opener of a three-game series. The 11-time Gold Glove winner, who broke Luis Aparicio’s major league record for most games played at SS on May 30, returns to Cleveland for the first time since signing with the Giants as a free agent on Nov. 16, 2004. He spent 11 seasons with the Tribe, helping them reach the playoffs six times and the World Series in 1995 and 1997. … Byrd was the winning pitcher for Cleveland in Torre’s final game as Yankees manager—the AL division series clincher, which the Indians won 6-4 in the Bronx. … Peralta also batted cleanup on May 8, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a 6-3 loss to the Yankees. … Billingsley hit two batters in the first three innings. The Indians have been plunked a major league-high 54 times. Last season, opposing pitchers hit 80 Cleveland batters to set a franchise record.