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Published: Monday, 7/9/2007

Indians suffer defeat in ninth

ASSOCIATED PRESS

TORONTO - Alex Rios is headed to San Francisco on a high note.

Rios hit an RBI single in the ninth inning to lift the Toronto Blue Jays over the Cleveland Indians 1-0 yesterday.

"That's a perfect way to send him off to the All-Star game," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Rios, who also will compete in tonight's Home Run Derby in San Francisco.

Reed Johnson hit a one-out double in the ninth, chasing Cleveland starter Paul Byrd. Rafael Betancourt came on to face Rios, who lined a 1-1 pitch up the middle.

"It feels good to end the first half of the season with a win," said Rios, who is batting .294 and leads Toronto with 17 homers and 53 RBIs.

Byrd (7-4) allowed four hits, struck out two and walked none in his longest outing of the season, but was upset with himself for a defensive miscommunication that led to Johnson's double down the first-base line.

Byrd didn't realize that first baseman Victor Martinez was guarding against the bunt and playing even with the bag, rather than behind the base.

"I'm extremely disappointed," Byrd said. "With him in, I would never throw a cut-fastball off the plate because the only thing [Johnson] can do with that is shoot it to the right side of the field. I thought Vic was playing back. I made a poor pitch. I'll think about that all night."

Blue Jays starter Josh Towers retired the first 17 batters he faced before Josh Barfield singled to left in the sixth.

Towers didn't realize he hadn't allowed a hit until the fourth inning, when he noticed his teammates were staying away from him in the dugout.

"I knew the ball was coming out pretty good," he said. "I was just concentrating on putting up zeros."

Towers struck out four and walked no one over eight-plus innings, his longest start of the season. He's 2-0 with a 3.26 ERA in his past three starts.

"He's on a little bit of a roll right now, Gibbons said. "The last three starts have been very good."

Indians manager Eric Wedge said his team looked anxious against Towers.

"We weren't very good against him, that's for sure," Wedge said. "He did a good job moving the ball around, mixed all his pitches. He took it to us."

Towers, who also gave up a two-out single to Travis Hafner in the seventh, was replaced by Scott Downs after Barfield led off the ninth with a broken-bat single to center.

Grady Sizemore tried to advance Barfield with a sacrifice, but Downs fielded the bunt and threw to second in time for the force.

Jeremy Accardo (2-3) came on to face Casey Blake, who reached on third baseman John McDonald's error to put runners on first and second. Martinez struck out and Hafner walked, loading the bases for Jhonny Peralta. Accardo fell behind 3-0, then struck Peralta out with three straight strikes.

"It's tough to come all the way back like that," Gibbons said. "Jeremy has really thrived in that role."

The teams combined for 27 runs and 45 hits in the first two games of the series, but offense was at a premium yesterday.

Byrd was almost as stingy as Towers. The right-hander gave up a pair of third-inning singles to McDonald and Royce Clayton, but escaped by striking out Vernon Wells and Johnson.

"After the fourth or fifth inning, it was kind of apparent that it was going to be a 1-0 game," Byrd said. "You know you can't walk guys, you know you can't make mistakes. You try to get a little stingier."

Clayton hit a one-out double in the eighth, but Howie Clark and McDonald both popped out.

"Paul gave us a great effort today," Wedge said. "He deserved better."

Notes: Toronto's Aaron Hill (sore knee) was held out of the starting lineup. Former Blue Jays and Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar attended the game. Following the game, the Blue Jays optioned catcher/first baseman Curtis Thigpen to Triple-A Syracuse. First baseman Lyle Overbay is expected to rejoin the team following the all-star break. Toronto beat Cleveland 8-6 Friday and the Indians won 9-4 Saturday.


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