October 1, 2014

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Byrd, defense the difference as Tribe downs Devil Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  — Paul Byrd gave up plenty of hits — just none when they mattered.

Byrd yielded eight hits but continually got out of jams, and the Cleveland Indians scored two runs early before holding on to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2-1 Friday night.

Byrd (11-5) gave up one run in six innings, striking out five, and the Devil Rays went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

“Somebody asked me today if I was pitching well,” Byrd said. “I didn’t know what to tell them. I didn’t know if I was pitching well because when they hit the ball hard it went right to somebody. Sometimes this game doesn’t make a lot of sense and you have to give some credit to the guys behind you, and I feel like that’s what happened tonight.”

Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt combined for two scoreless innings before Joe Borowski pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 38 opportunities.

Borowski got Akinori Iwamura to fly out to deep right with the tying run at second to end it.

“As a pitcher, you want to pick your team up,” Byrd said. “It’s just what you want to do. I think that’s what being a good team is all about. People made good adjustments and they pick each other up and they find a way to win the game when it’s close.”

Ryan Garko put the Indians ahead 1-0 on an RBI single in the first, and Asdrubal Cabrera drove in Franklin Gutierrez with a second-inning sacrifice fly.

Both runs went against Edwin Jackson (3-12), who gave up seven hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked five for Tampa Bay, which is 13-35 since June 25.

“It was one of those days where you’ve just got to dig real deep because you don’t have your best stuff,” Jackson said. “Damage control.”

Cleveland, which stranded 14 runners, loaded the bases with two outs later in the second inning, but failed to capitalize when Victor Martinez grounded out.

Tampa Bay scored in the fifth on Carl Crawford’s run-scoring single, but Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore prevented a big inning by making a diving catch on B.J. Upton’s liner to start a double play.

“Who’s to say what would’ve happened in the game?” Sizemore said. “But it definitely was a big play, and I could see it fired Byrdie up.”

Crawford is hitting .485 (32-for-66) in August. He also stole his 40th base of the season in the first. The Devil Rays’ All-Star representative has stolen 40 or more bases in each of his five full seasons.

The Indians threatened in the seventh, but were kept off the scoreboard by a pair of strong defensive plays.

Third baseman Iwamura took a hit away from Garko with a diving catch on a liner. Right fielder Delmon Young also threw out Martinez, who was attempting to score from third on pinch hitter Travis Hafner’s fly.

“We played some great defense,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “There were some pretty good plays overall in that game. Neither team hit well with runners in scoring position.”

Notes

Hafner (hamstring and knee) was out of the starting lineup because manager Eric Wedge wanted to rest him two days in a row. The Indians were off Thursday.

Young has 12 outfield assists this season.

LHP David Price, taken first overall in this year’s amateur draft by Tampa Bay, threw 44 pitches in first bullpen session since signing a six-year contract Wednesday.

Garko, who tweaked a groin muscle Wednesday, was the DH.

Devil Rays CF Rocco Baldelli, out since May 16 by a strained left hamstring, is set to start a minor league rehab assignment early next week.

Indians SS Jhonny Peralta stopped an 0-for-18 slide with a single in the seventh.

l Tampa Bay has not homered in seven straight games.