Byrd's strong outing, Shoppach's homer deny Twins first place in A.L. Central

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Paul Byrd made several changes after a rough outing against Minnesota last month. He altered his delivery, shaved his mustache and got a new glove.

A tip on his breaking ball from an unlikely source may have made the biggest difference in his resurgence.

Byrd tossed seven sharp innings to win his third straight start and Kelly Shoppach hit a two-run homer to lead the Cleveland Indians to a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night.

"When you get older you start to wonder, 'Have I just lost my mojo? Have guys figured me out?" Byrd said. "I don't know too many other ways I can change."

Byrd allowed one run and six hits to improve to 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA in four starts since he gave up six runs and eight hits in a loss to the Twins on July 4.

Byrd got a tip after that difficult day last month, and intimated it came from Twins broadcaster and former pitcher Bert Blyleven.

"I don't want to get him in trouble, but it's a broadcaster who should be in the Hall of Fame, but he's not," Byrd said with a grin.

Minnesota had a chance to move into first in the AL Central for the first time since May 13 but remained a half-game behind the Chicago White Sox, who lost 9-7 at Kansas City on Saturday.

"We're right where we want to be -- chasing," Justin Morneau said. "The pressure is on them to keep winning and stay in first. In 2006, I don't think we were in first until the last day of the season."

The Twins were without manager Ron Gardenhire, who served a one-game suspension for his outburst that led fans to throw hats and baseballs on the field during a victory over the White Sox on Thursday night.

Kevin Slowey (7-8) struggled for Minnesota, giving up five runs and six hits in six innings. The Indians hit two homers off the right-hander, who has surrendered 28 homers in 28 career starts.

Shoppach hit a two-run drive in the fourth inning to give Cleveland a 3-1 lead. It was the fourth homer in five games for Shoppach, who is playing in place of injured catcher Victor Martinez and hitting .390 since July 20.

"It helps just to be comfortable knowing that if you have a bad night, you have a chance to go back out there the next day and improve on the mistakes you made the previous night," Shoppach said.

David Dellucci started the three-run fourth with a routine flyball to left-center that dropped in for a double because of miscommunication between outfielders Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez. One batter later, Jhonny Peralta delivered an RBI double.

Dellucci hit a two-out, two-run homer in the fifth to make it 5-1.

The Twins opened the third with two bunt singles and a sacrifice bunt. Joe Mauer walked to load the bases for cleanup hitter Justin Morneau, who was 17-for-40 (.425) with three home runs against Byrd coming into the game.

Morneau hit a sacrifice fly to give Minnesota the lead, and Jason Kubel flied out to end the inning.

"He was throwing everything like he always does," Kubel said of Byrd. "He comes to the game knowing what he's going to do and he does it. He has a plan."

Game notes
Twins OF Michael Cuddyer will start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester next week. He said the soreness from his injured left index finger has subsided. ... The Indians said they hope Martinez, on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation, and INF Josh Barfield, on the DL with a finger sprain, will begin rehab assignments late next week. Barfield will begin taking batting practice next week. ... Slowey hasn't given up a first-inning run in any of his 18 starts this season, the longest streak to begin a season since the Yankees' Mike Mussina in 2003 ... Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano, called up Friday, is scheduled to start Sunday's rubber game. "You watch him now, and he trusts what he's doing," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "He trusts that he can cut the ball lose, get extension, and finish pitches -- and it's not going to hurt." ... Third base coach Scott Ulger was the acting manager with Gardenhire gone.