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10/09/07 1:29 AM ET
Wedge's loyalty helps Byrd soar
Decision to stick with 15-gamer winner right on for Tribe
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Eric Wedge couldn't be dissuaded in what turned out to be the final game of his club's American League Division Series against the Yankees on Monday and because of it, the Indians punched their ticket into the second round.
Despite plenty of outside criticism, Wedge stayed with Paul Byrd, his fourth starter, in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium rather than move up 19-game winner C.C. Sabathia to pitch on three days' rest.
Byrd survived five harrowing innings before the bullpen took over, plus the Indians withstood constant Yankees offensive pressure to win the game, 6-4, and the best-of-five series, 3-1. They open the AL Championship Series on Friday night in Boston with Sabathia healthy, happy and raring to go. The decision to stay with Byrd was pivotal to the Indians winning the series.
"The thing about this game is there are a lot of people who have an opinion, and that's what makes the game great," Yankees manager Joe Torre said after it was all over. "Everybody thinks that not only could they do a better job, but they have a better idea. But the manager's really the only guy who knows the quality of his people. Not only the ability of the person, but the quality of the person. And you trust people with certain situations."
Torre, who may have managed his last game for the Yankees on Monday night, trusted 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang with his club's season, pushing him up to work on three days' rest after a disastrous outing in Game 1 last week at Cleveland.
But Monday night's results were pretty much the same. Wang allowed a Grady Sizemore homer on the third pitch and was gone three batters into the second inning. Ultimately, the right-hander was charged with four runs on five hits, making his numbers a whopping 12 runs on 14 hits and a 19.06 ERA in the series.
"I wasn't comfortable watching him," Torre said about the quick hook. "As far as pitching on three days, that would have affected him later on; it wouldn't have affected him that early in the game. He just didn't locate it, and [the Indians] will let you know if you don't locate the ball."
Meanwhile, Byrd had his hands full with the Yankees, who had runners galore on base throughout his stint, which ended when Robinson Cano opened the sixth inning with a home run, cutting the Tribe lead to 6-2.
The Yanks had the bases loaded in the second when third baseman Casey Blake dove to smother Derek Jeter's single, allowing only one run to score. Bobby Abreu flew out to end the threat.
In the third, after Jorge Posada doubled with one out, Hideki Matsui smoked a grounder down the line that was snared by first baseman Victor Martinez for the second out. Posada had to stop at third. Cano flied out to end the scoreless inning and another rally was stuffed.
"They put the pressure on early," said Byrd, who allowed two runs on eight hits. "They have amazing fans here in New York and one of my goals was to keep their fans out of the game. I didn't want to start walking people and hearing the crowd go crazy with each ball. So I was just trying to keep making the pitches -- cutters, back door, and I got a few outs on changeups."
The Indians never trailed in the best-of-five series, taking the first two games at Jacobs Field this past Thursday and Friday. After the Yanks sliced Cleveland's lead in half with an 8-4 victory at the stadium on Sunday, the temptation might have been there for a manager to juggle his rotation.
Wedge, though, didn't bite.
"Well, we talked about this last night and again earlier today," Wedge said. "It was Paul Byrd all the way for us. I mean, he was our Game 4 starter, and deservingly so because he won 15 games."
The attitude of his manager instilled a confidence in Byrd, which was evident when he took the mound.
"It made me feel great," Byrd said. "When I came into the press conference last night reporters asked me two questions: The first one was: do you think [Wedge] should have gone with C.C.? And the second one was: if he would have gone with C.C., how would that have felt? I waited for the third question and there wasn't one, so I walked out of here feeling like a loser. And told my wife, 'Hey, I think I'm a pretty heavy underdog.'"
Byrd was no loser, of course. And neither were the Indians, who are going back to the ALCS for the first time since 1998 because of it.