Paul Byrd ... the shutout streak continues.
Paul Byrd pitched well. He had a season-high seven strikeouts without a walk. He didn't allow a run over 7 1/3 innings and relievers Rafael Perez and Masahide Kobayashi pitched shutout ball, too. But it was the defensive work of just about every player behind them that helped the Indians defeat the Oakland Athletics, 4-0, Tuesday night. Clutch hitting by Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner helped, too.
Hafner (.223) had two hits and an RBI while Garko (.231) homered for the first time in a month, a three-run shot in the eighth that gave the Tribe a little room.
Byrd (2-4, 3.61) was sharp as he matched others in Cleveland's starting rotation. Indians starters have not allowed a run in 34 innings, since C.C. Sabathia yielded a lone run in the fifth inning Friday night during a 6-1 win over Toronto.
Young lefty Aaron Laffey worked seven scoreless the next night in a 12-0 win. After a rainout, Fausto Carmona pitched a five-hitter for a complete-game 3-0 win in the first game of a doubleheader on Monday night. Cliff Lee worked nine scoreless before being replaced in the second game, when reliever Rafael Betancourt gave up all the runs in a 3-0 loss.
"You like to have that friendly competition," manager Eric Wedge said. "You try to keep moving it on down the line and keep trying to one-up one another. I think these guys are feeding off each other right now."
So are players in the field following Asdrubal Cabrera's unassisted triple play in the second game Monday night.
The young second baseman got another standing ovation Tuesday after a less-lucky and more impressive catch.
The 22-year-old ran into center field and made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch of a looping ball off the bat of Bobby Crosby to start the eighth inning.
"I didn't think there was any way he'd get to that ball," Wedge said. "Incredible."
It was the final batter Byrd faced. Afterwards, the right-hander acknowledged all the defensive help he received.
"My boxscore is going to look great in the paper, but the reality is they made some great plays, and I very easily could have given up some runs," Byrd said. "I just kept fist-pumping after every play. Unbelievable. If they don't make those plays, who knows what the score is?
"You can take those top five plays of the week they run up on the scoreboard and replace them all from this game."
Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez got it started in the second inning. Sizemore fielded Crosby's two-out single to center and came up throwing. Frank Thomas tried to score from second, but never had a chance. Martinez tagged the 39-year-old DH, whose awkward slide stopped well short of the plate.
In the third, left fielder David Dellucci jumped up against the wall to rob Donnie Murphy, Then in the fifth, Byrd got out of a two-on, one-out jam by striking out Murphy and with the runners in motion, Martinez threw out Crosby trying to steal third.
Sizemore worked his magic again in the sixth, snaring a fly ball in short left-center to take away Kurt Suzuki's bid for a leadoff hit.
Hafner lined a two-out single to center to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead in the first. Facing former Indians left-hander Alan Embree, he stroked another two-out hit to keep the inning alive and getting Garko to the plate.
Garko hammered a high pitch from ex-Indians right-hander Andrew Brown over the fence to make it 4-0.
That enabled Kobayashi to stay in the game and earn his first save. Wedge had used the right-hander to get the final out in the eighth and likely was going to turn to closer Rafael Betancourt in the ninth with the score 1-0. Given the insurance runs, he allowed Kobayashi to finish, saving Betancourt, who had worked the previous night.
"I wasn't going to get the save, but I want to thank my teammates for giving me the opportunity," Kobayashi said through an interpreter.
The 33-year-old signed with Cleveland as a free agent in November. Over the previous eight years in Japan, he had 227 saves as one of the premier closers in the history of the game in his native country.