|ESPN.com: MLB Playoffs 2005||[Print without images]|
Yet, there was Paul Byrd on Tuesday night, defying logic and leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox in Game 1 of the AL championship series.
|A 12-game winner during the regular season, Byrd delivered in a pinch for the Angels.|
Pitching on three days' rest, Byrd kept the White Sox off balance with breaking ball after breaking ball and offspeed pitch after offspeed pitch. He allowed two runs and five hits and left with a 3-2 lead after hitting Aaron Rowand leading off the seventh.
Byrd's impressive effort came after the champagne-soaked Angels trudged into the hotel in Chicago at 6:30 a.m. after flying through the night following their division series victory over the New York Yankees.
"It was one of those days where you wake up and the room is dark, and you say where am I?" Byrd said. "But it beats sitting home on the couch watching."
He adjusted quickly.
The Angels are without ace Bartolo Colon, who left Monday's game with inflammation in his right shoulder, for this series. And Jarrod Washburn, Wednesday's scheduled starter, is recovering from strep throat.
So the Angels turned to Byrd, who was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in three postseason appearances (one start) with the Atlanta Braves and Angels. Byrd, who missed the 2003 season while recuperating from Tommy John surgery, seemed fine pitching on short rest.
It was a stark contrast from Game 3 of the division series, when Byrd allowed four runs in 3 2-3 innings in a game the Angels ultimately won.
"It's very gratifying to me," Byrd said. "My career hasn't gone exactly like I would like it to with the surgery, so it's gratifying to be on this team. The fact that [manager Mike Scioscia] gave me the ball, trusted me with the ball, after a shaky outing against New York has done loads for my confidence."
Scioscia said before the game he wasn't concerned about sending out Byrd on short rest because he didn't throw many pitches against New York. Also, Byrd is not a power pitcher.
"He's started on three days' rest for us and done a great job," center fielder Steve Finley said. "Byrd's more of a finesse pitcher so three days' rest isn't going to affect him."
On Tuesday, Byrd threw 73 pitches, 46 strikes, and walked one. He hit the corners and frustrated the White Sox.
The Angels staked him to an early lead.
Garret Anderson -- 4-for-7 in his career against the White Sox's Jose Contreras before the game -- homered on a 2-0 pitch leading off the second inning for the first run. And the Angels added two more in the third on an RBI infield single by Orlando Cabrera and a fielder's choice grounder by Vladimir Guerrero.
Byrd retired the first seven batters before Joe Crede lined a homer to left-center, bringing the crowd to its feet. The White Sox cut the lead to 3-2 in the fourth when Carl Everett scored from second on A.J. Pierzynski's single to right with two out, but Byrd struck out Crede and did not allow a runner past first the rest of the way.
After hitting Rowand, Byrd made his case to stay in. But after watching Scot Shields pitch two scoreless innings and Francisco Rodriguez deliver a scoreless ninth, he said Scioscia made the right call.
"I wanted to give our team at least seven, eight innings," Byrd said. "I didn't know that Scot Shields was going to come in and throw 94 on the corners. He looked great. We've had a couple redeye flights and guys haven't really complained. I don't know if they're delirious or what. ...
"I got us through six, but the bottom line is our bullpen came
in and picked me up when, reasonably, they could have been tired."