CLEVELAND – For four innings Saturday night it appeared as though Mitch Talbot and the Indians would prolong Tampa Bay’s misery at Progressive Field.
Then, along came the fifth.
From that inning on, the Indians and Rays looked like different teams, Tampa Bay being the better one in a 6-3 victory that ended a lengthy losing streak for the visitors in Cleveland.
It was the Rays’ first win at Progressive Field in 19 games, with the 18 straight victories by the Indians accounting for the longest home winning streak by an American League team against a single opponent since Baltimore won 19 straight over Toronto from 1978-81.
“The way you stop a streak is you score six runs and have David Price on the mound,” said Indians manager Manny Acta of the Rays, who own the best road record in the majors at 32-18. “I’ll take that against the ’27 Yankees.”
Talbot and Price, the American League’s All-Star Game starter, traveled different paths to the end results, Talbot starting fast and finishing slow, while Price went the other direction.
Facing his old team for the first time, Talbot, who was acquired in a straight-up trade for catcher Kelly Shoppach began the game looking like a Hall of Fame pitcher.
The left-hander shut out the Rays on one hit over the first four innings, stringing together six consecutive strikeouts over the span to equal a club record shared by Bob Feller, Bartolo Colon and Chuck Finley.
But when the fifth inning arrived, it spelled doom for Talbot, who lost his luster and the game. He allowed three runs in the fifth, then two more in the sixth before departing with two outs and Tampa Bay in front 5-3.
“I still think I was making pretty good pitches,” said Talbot, who allowed five runs on seven hits, while striking out a career-high eight batters in 5 2/3 innings. “A couple of ground balls found their way through the infield and then Ben (Zobrist) came up with that big hit.
“I’d say I had a little bit more (adrenaline). I came up with that team and I kind of wanted to get them a little bit.”
Talbot retired the first two batters he faced in the fifth before allowing consecutive singles to the last two hitters in the lineup, Shoppach and Jason Bartlett. Zobrist followed with a drive to left-center that was originally ruled a triple before being reviewed and reversed to a three-run home run.
“He was really, really good early, but then we started hitting the ball,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon of Talbot. “We made some hard outs – that was a good sign – and eventually we got some runs. He looked pretty good, though. He’s been pitching well for them and he kept us in check, but I like the fact we came back.
“He stuck out what? Six in a row? It was shades of Carl Hubbel in the 1933 All-Star Game, I think.”
“He put his name with the great pitchers in Indians history,” Acta said. “That fifth inning just kind of cost him. That three-run homer kind of took the air out of us. After that, David Price was fantastic.”
Price allowed three runs over the first two innings before finding his groove and finishing off the Indians. He allowed three runs on three hits over seven innings, earning his 13th win to tie CC Sabathia for the most victories in the American League.
Price (13-5, 2.90 ERA) faced one over the minimum after the second inning, retiring 13 of the last 15 hitters he faced – 10 straight until a leadoff walk to Jason Donald in the eighth.
“He’s one of the elite guys in the league,” Acta said. “It’s not surprising that he did that.”
The Indians scored their first run on an RBI double from Shin-Soo Choo in the first, then added two more in the second on a two-run homer from Shelley Duncan.
Cleveland’s consecutive scoreless innings streak at home from its bullpen came to an end at 20 2/3 innings when Frank Herrmann allowed the Rays’ final run in the seventh.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.