ST. PETERSBURG -- The Indians' struggles against left-handed pitching have been well-documented this season, but that was hardly the problem on Thursday afternoon. David Price is no ordinary lefty. He is simply one of the better pitchers in the game.
"He overpowered us," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
The Tribe had trouble solving Price once again, leading to a 6-0 loss at Tropicana Field to wrap up Cleveland's seven-game swing through Toronto and Tampa Bay. Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez has issues of his own, but it was the absence of any offense that tripped up the Tribe.
Price held the Indians to just two singles -- their only two hits of the game -- over seven stellar innings, picking up his Major League-leading 13th win in the process. It was the type of effort that had Cleveland feeling fortunate to have picked up a pair of wins in the three previous games at The Trop.
That allowed the Indians to head home with a split of the four-game set, and with a 3-4 record on the road trip.
"That's why I felt that [Wednesday's] win was so important for us," Acta said. "You really don't want to come into the last game of the series trying to tie the series against David Price."
That is especially true given Price's career mark against the Tribe.
In six career starts against the Indians, who have gone 10-19 against lefty starters this season, Price has gone 5-0 with a tidy 1.64 ERA. Over 38 1/3 innings in that span, he has limited Cleveland to 22 hits while piling up 42 strikeouts. Price is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA against the Indians in St. Petersburg.
For his latest trip to the win column, Price ended with seven strikeouts and three walks in his seven shutout innings. He pounded the strike zone with his fastball early and mixed in more offspeed pitches as the afternoon wore on. That had the Indians behind in the count often, and relying too much on guesswork.
"This was my first time facing him," Indians third baseman Jose Lopez said. "With his fastball, it moves like a little sinker. He throws a lot of strikes. The first couple innings, he was using the fastball on the first pitch and we just couldn't get it. We were missing a lot of fastballs."
Cleveland had its best opportunity against Price in the fifth inning, when the lefty issued a leadoff walk to Carlos Santana. At that point, through 14 hitters faced, a pair of free passes to Santana served as the only blemishes on Price's pitching line.
That changed when Lopez followed Santana with a single to center field, ending any talk of a no-hitter. Price responded by striking out Shelley Duncan and then ran into some good fortune when Santana was caught on a botched hit-and-run. Santana was thrown out by catcher Jose Molina and Price went on to escape the Tribe's brief threat.
In the sixth inning, the Indians showed some life in the form of a one-out single from shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Any momentum Cleveland might have gathered abrupty disappeared when Cabrera was picked off first base by Price to end the inning.
On another night, those baserunning blunders might have loomed large.
Price rendered them irrelevant, as far as Acta was concerned.
"The guys that came up after that were overpowered by him anyway," Acta said. "You have to try to do some stuff against him. If you just let him match up one-on-one against some of our guys, especially the bottom of the order, it isn't going to work."
Even so, Cleveland's mistakes on the basepaths, combined with Tampa Bay's showing against Jimenez, made for a lopsided loss.
"[Price] is a tough guy," said Jimenez, who was charged with five runs over 5 2/3 innings. "He's a left-handed pitcher throwing 97-98 mph with good breaking balls. You definitely need to go out there and try to minimize the errors, the mistakes. You know if you give up a run or two it's going to be really hard. We only had two hits."
Tampa Bay first broke through with Luke Scott's third-inning solo home run, extending the designated hitter's recent run against the Tribe. Dating back to June 2, Scott has gone 14-for-30 against the Indians, but 0-for-41 against all other opponents. His blast on Thursday was his 12th of the season.
The Rays broke things open in the sixth, though. With two outs, Jimenez hit Jennings with a pitch before giving up a single to Molina and a walk to Sean Rodriguez. Following a mound visit with pitching coach Scott Radinsky, Jimenez surrendered a bases-clearing double to Upton, putting the Indians in a 5-0 hole.
Overall, Jimenez walked five and allowed seven hits, though his last run allowed came after he exited. Rookie lefty Scott Barnes entered in relief of Jimenez in the sixth and yielded an RBI single to Carlos Pena. Scott and Jeff Keppinger connected for consecutive doubles in the seventh to push the Tribe behind, 6-0.
"I thought Ubaldo battled well for us," Acta said. "He gave us five innings for us to do something, to score runs, and we couldn't do it. And in that [sixth] inning, it's too bad, because he couldn't come out of there with a very good outing."
Price had no such problem, toying with the Tribe en route to his fifth win in a row.
"That's what he can do to any type of offense," Acta said, "not only ours."