NEW YORK — For Eric Wedge, it was a no-brainer. For those who wanted to see C.C. Sabathia start on short rest over Paul Byrd in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium on Monday, Cleveland’s manager has no brains.
“There was never any thought to the contrary for multiple reasons,” Wedge said of the decision to start Byrd. “One, (Byrd) won 15 games for us and we wouldn’t be here without him. Two, if you look at the history of three days rest, it’s nothing spectacular. And finally, C.C. worked as hard as he did all year (in Game 1), he’s pushing 250 innings and we’re not going to put anyone in harms way, especially not our ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball.”
In defense of Wedge, though Sabathia only pitched five innings in Game 1 on Thursday, he had to work overtime, throwing 114 pitches and he has only pitched on three days rest once in his career.
Sabathia said Sunday that he would have obliged had Wedge asked, but that he wasn’t expecting him to.
“(Wedge) was pretty clear, even before this series started,” Sabathia said. “Byrd has been there before. I look for him to throw a good game. If there is a Game 5, I’ll be ready.”
Also behind Wedge are the sorry statistics for pitchers who have started on short rest in the postseason.
Since 1995, teams that started a pitcher on three days rest have gone 29-52 — 12-30 since 1999. The starters are 9-19 with a 5.50 ERA since 1999. The last three Indians pitchers who attempted it are Bartolo Colon (in Game 4 of the 1999 Division Series against Boston), Charles Nagy (in Game 5 of the ALDS against Boston in ’99) and Chuck Finley (in Game 5 of the Division Series against Seattle in 2001). Cleveland lost all three games, getting outscored 43-19.
Though Byrd was on the mound at Yankee Stadium on Monday, he would not have squawked had Wedge gone with Sabathia.
“If he did, I was fine with that,” said Byrd, who allowed seven runs in just two innings of his only regular-season start against New York, bringing his career mark against the Yankees to 1-4. “That’s his call. We didn’t know what the Yankees were going to do. We didn’t know what we were going to do. But I’m excited that he gave me the ball.”
Cleveland’s Game 3 starter Jake Westbrook had it going for a while Sunday night, but the complexion changed when the right-hander’s sinker stopped diving and the Yankees started using the opposite field against him in a pivotal four-run fifth inning.
Westbrook wound up allowing six runs on nine hits through five innings in his first postseason appearance.
“He had a real good sinker going early on,” Wedge said. “I think he needed to get more strike ones. He was behind. We didn’t play well behind him.”
“They’re a good hitting team,” Westbrook said of the Yankees. “You’ve got to be able to make your pitches. I was able to do that for a little while.”
Massaging the rules
As was expected, the Yankees made an in-series injury substitution Monday, adding former Cleveland left-hander Ron Villone to their division series roster in place of Roger Clemens, who left Game 3 prematurely after re-aggravating a hamstring injury.
Since Clemens would not have pitched the rest of the series anyway, the Yankees took advantage of a loophole in the rule to add a fresh arm to their bullpen.
“For them, it works out well,” Wedge said. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t do the same thing. It’s a smart move.”
Because the Yankees removed Clemens, he is ineligible to play in the AL Championship Series if New York were to advance. He would be able to play in the World Series.
Though Indians closer Joe Borowski has been maligned by shaky performances and a bulky ERA for much of the season, the right-hander who led the American League with 45 saves in 53 chances, actually worked more 1-2-3 saves (15) than legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (10) this season.
Borowski went 4-5 with a 5.07 ERA in 69 regular season games, while Rivera was 3-4 with a 3.15 ERA with 30 saves in 67 games.
The Game 3 setback Sunday was the Indians’ sixth straight loss when they’ve had the opportunity to clinch a playoff series. Cleveland lost three straight to Boston after winning the first two games of the 1999 division series, and twice to Seattle with two opportunities to clinch the 2001 division series.
• Though it’s Alex Rodriguez’s playoff futility that gets most of the attention, it’s actually Derek Jeter who slumped through the first three games of the series, batting just .083 (1-for-12) — the lowest of any Yankees regular.