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 Paul Byrd was hoping the Cleveland Indians could finish off a three-game sweep of New York. Now that the Yankees have sent their AL division series to a fourth game, he's happy he'll get a chance to stop them.
Byrd will oppose New York's Chien-Ming Wang at Yankee Stadium on Monday night with a chance to send Cleveland to its first AL championship series since 1998.
``I've got a little extra rest,'' said Byrd, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 27. ``I feel good, arm feels good. I'm looking forward to it.''
Byrd has struggled against New York in his career, going 1-4 with a 4.82 ERA. He allowed seven runs and seven hits in two innings Aug. 11 in his only start against the Yankees this season.
He said the Bronx Bombers made a statement with their 8-4 win in Game 3 on Sunday night.
``(Their) offense showed a lot of signs of life,'' Byrd said.
While Byrd is plenty rested, Wang took the loss in Cleveland's 12-3 victory in Game 1 on Thursday. He allowed nine hits and eight runs in 4 2-3 innings.
Wang said he feels fine and the short rest shouldn't be an issue.
``The last time I faced Cleveland the ball was up, and tomorrow I'll try to get the ball down,'' he said.
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CLUTCH MARTINEZ: Despite winning 96 games this season, the Cleveland Indians didn't have an obvious MVP candidate.
That doesn't mean everybody missed what catcher Victor Martinez accomplished.
The switch-hitting slugger batted .301 with 25 home runs, 40 doubles and 114 RBIs while providing stability and leadership behind the plate. At 28, he's already established himself as one of the rarest and most valuable commodities in baseball - a durable backstop with a big bat.
``I think he's one of the best catchers in the game. Especially if you look at the all-around game - he was second or third in regard to throwing out runners this year,'' Indians manager Eric Wedge said Sunday. ``That was the only thing he was ever really criticized for. So you talk about a guy going after something and getting better. Offensively, he is without a doubt one of the best hitting catchers in the game.''
Martinez is off to a great start in the playoffs, too, going 4-for-12 with a homer, a double and two RBIs in Cleveland's first three games against the New York Yankees.
``I can't say enough about us being able to count on him this year,'' Wedge said. ``Does he get the respect he deserves? I don't know. I don't get too caught up in it. His teammates and his peers in the game respect him, and there is nothing more important than that.''
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GAGNE'S JOY: Reliever Eric Gagne has had a difficult time since joining Boston in midseason, but he seemed as happy as anyone in the Red Sox clubhouse after their series-clinching victory.
``It's very special,'' he said. ``I mean, I've been there with the Dodgers, but this is something else. This team's unbelievable and it's just an honor to be a part of it.''
Gagne saved 152 games for the Dodgers between 2002-04, but has only 27 since that time. He was 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 20 games with the Red Sox after they acquired him from the Texas Rangers on July 31.
The 31-year-old right-hander, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent, allowed the only Angels' run Sunday in Boston's 9-1 victory.
We know we're going to hit and score runs, but this team's been all about pitching,'' he said. ``Alex Cora told me that they had a great team atmosphere and great chemistry here. That's what it's all about and that's why I wanted to come here.''
Gagne and Cora were teammates with the Dodgers.
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BAKER'S BIG HIT: Stay back, don't be too anxious and take what the pitcher gives.
With that approach at the plate, Colorado outfielder Jeff Baker became an unlikely hero.
His single off Philadelphia's J.C. Romero with two outs in the eighth brought home the winning run Saturday night in the Rockies' 2-1 win to complete a three-game sweep of the Phillies.
``I wasn't trying to do too much,'' said Baker, who hit just .222 in the regular season. ``We didn't need a home run there, I was just trying to get a base hit.''
Baker has bounced back after being struck in the helmet by a pitch from Chicago Cubs starter Jason Marquis on Aug. 10.
He was placed on the disabled list the next day with a mild concussion, but reinstated when rosters were expanded in early September.
``When I got hit in the face, that kind of put things in perspective and slowed me down a bit,'' Baker said. ``I've been pressing all year and obviously it's not where I want to be.''
Baker played a limited role following his return - mostly coming off the bench as a pinch hitter - but had a home run against Florida on Sept. 14.
Garrett Atkins, who scored the winning run on Baker's single through the right side, said he had a feeling Baker would come through.
``There's not a better guy that I want up in that spot,'' Atkins said. ``He got hurt, but we always believed he could hit.''
That's why manager Clint Hurdle had him on the postseason roster.
``I think he's a great kid,'' Hurdle said. ``The guys in here have embraced him. They (were) pulling for him like mad when he went up to the plate. We're very happy for him.''
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