Byrd has 6-hitter, Indians beat Blue Jays 4-2

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TORONTO (AP)—When Bert Blyleven offered Paul Byrd tips on throwing a better curveball, the Cleveland right-hander listened carefully.

Armed with an improved hook, Byrd pitched a six-hitter to win his fourth consecutive start and Ryan Garko drove in two runs in the Cleveland Indians’ 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

“I had a really good curveball today,” Byrd said. “I used it to left-handers a lot. I got a strikeout on it, a number of outs on it. I got some first-pitch strikes on my curveball, I thought that was key. It’s probably not in the scouting report for them over there.”

Byrd (7-10), who dropped five straight decisions between June 11 and July 4, threw his first complete game since a 7-0 victory over the White Sox on Sept. 1, 2007. He allowed two runs and six hits, walked none and struck out two. He threw 93 pitches, 67 for strikes.

“I feel good with where I’m at right now,” Byrd said. “I’m very confident. I know my numbers aren’t great for the overall season, but right now I feel like I can beat anybody. I feel like I’m at the top of my game.”

Byrd had set down 12 straight batters and 21 of 22 overall when Lyle Overbay hit a two-out single in the ninth. Overbay was thrown out by left-fielder Ben Francisco to end the game as he tried to stretch the hit into a double.

“I wasn’t ready for that,” Byrd said. “I didn’t know who to go hug, (catcher Kelly) Shoppach or Benny.”

Now a Minnesota broadcaster, Blyleven won 287 games and struck out 3701 in a 22-year career. He chatted twice with Byrd and watched him throw during a recent series between the Twins and Indians.

“Having an extra pitch like a curveball just opens up a whole new area for me,” Byrd said. “My curveball was presentable at best before. Now I got strikeouts on it, guys laid off it, guys beat it into the ground. It was more than just a show-me pitch. I think it allowed me to go a little later in the game. It’s better to be a four-pitch pitcher than a three, and it’s really helped me against lefties.”

So, what does Byrd think of his curveball now?

“It’s nothing like (Blyleven’s) curveball, but for Paul Byrd, it’s very good,” he said.

Garko, who was pulled after failing to run out a grounder in Wednesday’s loss at Tampa Bay, started at first base and went 2-for-4. He doubled home a run in the fourth and had an RBI single in Cleveland’s three-run sixth.

“These last three or four days have been a little tough,” Garko said. “I’ve talked to a lot of my teammates and obviously all the coaches. It’s tough because you never want to be in a position where you feel like you’re not being the kind of player you want to be.”

Cleveland manager Eric Wedge was pleased with Garko’s effort.

“That’s what he needs to do, is be a run producer, and that’s what he did today in a tight ball game,” Wedge said.

The Indians took advantage of a shaky start by Toronto right-hander Roy Halladay, who has lost three of five. Halladay (13-9) allowed four runs—one earned—and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.

Halladay threw a season-high 130 pitches, even though he didn’t make it through seven innings for just the third time in his last 10 starts. He lost for just the second time in 12 career games against Cleveland.

“We didn’t play too well behind him today, and cost him a lot of pitches,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said.”

The Blue Jays gave their ace a 2-0 lead with runs in each of the first two innings. Joe Inglett tripled and scored on Marco Scutaro’s sacrifice fly in the first, and Brad Wilkerson doubled home a run in the second.

Cleveland got one run back in the fourth when Alex Rios dropped Shin-soo Choo’s drive to left-center, a two-base error. One out later, Choo scored on Garko’s double.

There was more bad defense by Toronto when the Indians batted around in the sixth. Jhonny Peralta led off with a single and Choo followed with a grounder to short that left runners at first and second after John McDonald threw high to Inglett as he tried for the force. Francisco bunted to advance the runners before Garko and Andy Marte hit run-scoring singles.

Asdrubal Cabrera walked and Garko was forced out at the plate on Grady Sizemore’s fielder’s choice before David Delluci drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk.

Cleveland is 5-1 against Toronto this season and has outscored the Blue Jays 30-8.


Cabrera, who left Wednesday’s game with a sprained left ankle and sat out Friday, started at second base. … Peralta has hit safely in 25 of 28 games. … Toronto OF Adam Lind batted fourth for the first time in his career and finished 0-for-4. … Indians LHP Cliff Lee (15-2) faces Toronto RHP Scott Richmond (0-1) in Sunday’s series finale. Lee is tied with New York’s Mike Mussina for the AL lead in wins. His ERA of 2.58 is second to Oakland’s Justin Duchscherer (2.51).

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