SEATTLE — Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd likes the idea of playing meaningful games this time of year.
Of course, the Indians would prefer to win them.
The Seattle Mariners beat the Indians 4-2 on Thursday night, their second straight win over Cleveland to deny the Indians sole possession of the best record in the American League. Jose Guillen and Jose Lopez each hit two-run homers to back Cha Seung Baek (4-3).
The loss keeps the AL Central-champion Indians (94-65) even with the AL East-leading Red Sox. Home-field advantage is at stake for the team that finishes with the best record. Cleveland closes with three games in Kansas City while Boston finishes at home with three more against Minnesota.
The AL West-champion Los Angeles Angels are two back, as are the New York Yankees. The Indians need one more win to clinch home-field advantage in the first round, where they likely will host the Yankees.
“The two two-run home runs obviously crushed me,” said Byrd (15-8), who went 61/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and four runs.
“These games were very important but it’s a good thing,” Byrd added. “I personally don’t think it’s good when a team plays games for a week that don’t count and then go into the playoffs. It’s good that these games mean things. We’re trying to get everyone ready to go and win at the same time.”
Manager Eric Wedge has said that he’s walking a fine line this week. He wants to rest some of his regulars and get his bench players sharper but he also wants to finish with the best record.
“I’m real pleased with the way they are going about their business right now,” Wedge said. “We got a split here. We had a chance to win a four-game series here. That’s not easy to do.
“We’ve done a good job getting all our guys some rest. We’ve got C.C. (Sabathia) out there on the mound (today). We’ll be ready to roll and keep taking it day by day.”
The Mariners, on the other hand, will be done next week. Their focus is on next year. Earlier Thursday, the club announced that manager John McLaren and general manager Bill Bavasi will return next season.
After Baek’s effort Thursday, McLaren said he could be one of the pieces for his rotation next season. Baek went six innings in his first start since June 16, allowing a run and seven hits. He had two strikeouts and no walks.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” McLaren said. “He’ll get a good look next spring, that’s for sure.
“He really threw some nice games for us early in the season. Then had some arm problems and it took him a long time to come back from that. I tell you what, that was really impressive.”
It was just the 12th start for Baek this season. He was placed on the disabled list June 17 because of an inflamed right shoulder. He spent the rest of the season in the minors, and was called up Sept. 18.
Cleveland scored one run in the second. Franklin Gutierrez singled with one out and Kenny Lofton followed with an RBI triple to the left-center gap, over center fielder Ichiro Suzuki’s head.
The Indians had a chance to break out in the fourth after Travis Hafner and Gutierrez opened with singles. But Baek induced a shallow flyout by Casey Blake. Lofton popped up to short and Kelly Shoppach struck out.
With the Mariners holding a 4-1 lead, Sean Green took over for Baek in the seventh and held the Indians scoreless for two innings. Brandon Morrow gave up back-to-back doubles to Lofton and Shoppach in the ninth to close the gap to two.
George Sherrill replaced Morrow with two outs and the tying run at the plate. Sherrill hit Grady Sizemore with a pitch, but catcher Kenji Johjima picked Sizemore off at first for the final out. Sherrill got his third save in seven chances.
“I saw him leaning toward second base. That’s why I had in mind to put in a pickoff,” Johjima, who signaled to first baseman Ben Broussard after the second pitch to batter Chris Gomez. “Fortunately, it worked out well.”
Guillen crushed a 1-2 pitch from Byrd in the first inning for his 23rd home run and 99th RBI. Guillen is on the verge of his second career 100 RBI season.
After Jeff Clement singled in the fourth, Lopez also hit a two-out home run on a 1-2 pitch from Byrd. It was Lopez’s 10th home run, matching his career high.
Lopez has just 10 home runs this season, two off Byrd.
• In three starts against Cleveland this season, Baek is 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA.
• Cleveland finished 21-15 against the AL West.
• Since Aug. 25, Cleveland is 24-8, while Seattle is 12-21.