ST. PETERSBURG — After watching their pitching staff shut out the Indians while taking the first two in the three-game series, the Rays felt pretty confident Sunday with AL Cy Young Award winner David Price on the mound.
What's more, Price never had lost in six dominant starts against Cleveland.
"When you get these games figured out, let me know," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We hadn't scored in two nights. We were facing a guy that won the Cy Young."
But so far, the Rays ace is in a hole.
Price had statistically his worst outing in the majors, allowing a career-high eight earned runs and 10 hits in only five innings in a 13-0 loss to the Indians before 21,629 at Tropicana Field.
Price fell behind hitters, left pitches over the middle of the plate and was knocked out of the game after three-run homers by Mark Reynolds and Lonnie Chisenhall. Reynolds also homered in the seventh off Kyle Farnsworth, providing two of the five blasts among the Indians' 17 hits.
After two starts, Price is 0-1 with an 8.18 ERA and has allowed 22 baserunners (17 hits, five walks) in 11 innings.
Although his heat rarely exceeded 94 mph Sunday, Price still is approaching his job with a coal miner's work ethic and says he feels good throwing the ball. But he insists as much as opposing batters are teeing off, he's beating himself.
"I'm fighting myself right now," said Price, who did not allow a three-run homer in 2012. "It's tough, for as good as I feel out there on the mound to go out there and be my own worst enemy. I've got to get out of my own way and just throw the ball. … I'm just fighting myself right now, my delivery."
The Rays (3-3), who embark on a 10-game road trip that begins tonight in Arlington, Texas, against the Rangers, didn't do much to support Price against Indians starter Justin Masterson. They loaded the bases with two outs in the first on a single by Ben Zobrist and walks to Evan Longoria and James Loney. But Yunel Escobar struck out for the first of three times.
What made it even more confounding is the Rays had mastered Masterson. Prior to Sunday, he was 1-7 with a 7.74 ERA against Tampa Bay, which managed only two Zobrist singles against him in seven innings.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he didn't want his team to stew about the beating, suggesting they should just "throw this one in the garbage can." He also didn't seem particularly worried about Price's rough start to 2013.
"David obviously was not sharp, and he's not going to make any excuses about it," Maddon said. "I'm not concerned. It's just one of those days.
"It just did not look like the putaway pitch was there for David. Just missing."
Price was shaky Tuesday in his first outing, allowing a two-run homer in the first to the Orioles' Matt Wieters. But he battled through six innings and did not get the decision in a 7-4 loss.
"I'm used to pitching very well at home," he said. "It's a little upsetting for the two starts I had here.
"It's just one of those things. You've got to find whatever it is that sticks and clicks and then just stay with it. It took me a couple starts last year as well. … I've thought about it since I came out and I don't really have a positive from today and that's tough to do."