CLEVELAND -- An injured Mitch Talbot walked off the mound in the third inning, handing the Indians' relievers the toughest of tasks: Keep the Yankees' offense at bay for seven innings.
Sure, Fausto Carmona had logged 2 2/3 innings the previous night, leaving 19 outs for the bullpen in a lopsided loss. On this night, the relief corps would need to notch 21 more -- ideally, well enough to give the Indians an opportunity to earn a split in their four-game series with the Yanks.
Initially, the relievers seemed up to the challenge. Through six innings, the Indians trailed by just one run against the team with baseball's best record.
Then the seventh inning rolled around, and the Tribe 'pen rolled over.
The Yankees erupted for seven runs in that inning, turning a close game into what eventually became an 11-4 Indians loss.
Manager Manny Acta could only dole out so much criticism of a bullpen that worked 13 1/3 innings in the span of two games.
"Very few teams are prepared to have a starter not go three innings one day and then the very next day have an injury after the first inning," Acta said. "It's tough. It's just really tough on your bullpen."
So tough that Acta said that the club will make a roster move on Friday to add a fresh arm.
The Indians sure could have used more fresh arms on Thursday. Cleveland permitted a season-high 12 walks, the most it has allowed in a nine-inning game since it issued the same amount on July 8, 1990.
Ironically, the lone pitcher to not yield a free pass was third baseman Andy Marte, who tossed a 1-2-3 ninth in the first pitching appearance of his Major League career -- not to mention his life.
"I just wanted to throw strikes," Marte said.
Tony Sipp and Joe Smith did not enjoy the same success in the seventh, when they teamed up to allow seven runs on four hits and four walks -- all of which came with two outs.
Acta had a front-row seat for the misery that unfolded.
"It was a 2-1 ballgame," he said. "We got the two outs and nobody on. Then, seven runs later, we were done."
Also done was Smith's streak of 14 consecutive scoreless appearances, the longest by a Tribe reliever this season. After Robinson Cano deposited a 2-1 Sipp slider into the right-field seats for a solo homer, Francisco Cervelli stroked an RBI single off Smith, who then walked Derek Jeter with the bases loaded.
Two-run knocks from Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez capped the outburst.
The rout appeared unlikely in the early innings. The Indians loaded the bases against Yankees starter Dustin Moseley in the first, pushing across a run on Austin Kearns' one-out sacrifice fly to right field, which scored Asdrubal Cabrera.
Talbot walked the bases loaded with one down in the second but emerged from the threat unscathed after turning Cervelli's comebacker into an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play.
But the rookie right-hander's outing came to a premature close after he left with a mid-back strain. Talbot allowed a leadoff single to Colin Curtis in the third and threw two balls to Jeter before receiving a visit from Acta and head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff. Following a brief discussion, Talbot exited in favor of Rafael Perez.
"It happened at the end of the first inning," Acta said of the injury. "We could tell when he was out there that he was feeling a little bit uncomfortable. He wanted to give it a try because he knows the situation with our bullpen, but we didn't want to take any chances."
Talbot understood the decision, though he did not embrace it.
"To come out of the game, I didn't like that at all," Talbot said. "[The back strain] just kind of stayed the same and didn't go away. I tried to work through it, but it didn't go away.
"You've got to do what you've got to do."
All the bullpen had to do was contain the Yankees' vaunted lineup. And for a stretch of four innings, it largely succeeded.
Rodriguez -- who again fell short of hitting his 600th career home run -- put a charge into Perez's 3-2 fastball with one down and the bases loaded in the third, sending it deep enough to center to score Curtis with the tying run.
Jeter gave the Yanks a one-run lead in the sixth, lining a two-out single to center off Sipp that delivered Brett Gardner, who had worked a leadoff walk against Frank Herrmann.
Still, Acta felt content with the one-run deficit his team took into the seventh.
"Those guys came out of the bullpen and did a nice job holding them down," he said. "Despite Talbot's injury, we had a pretty good ballgame going up until the seventh inning."
And because of that seventh inning, the three runs the Indians scored off Chan Ho Park in the ninth proved inconsequential.
In truth, the game had been decided two innings earlier.
"For six innings, we held them there," Acta said. "We just didn't have a very good seventh inning. It was an ordeal."
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.