CLEVELAND — It was just more than a week ago when Indians catcher Victor Martinez took issue with the Rays trying to steal bases while trailing by nine runs, saying the Rays needed to learn how to play the "right way."
But here was Martinez on Monday night, capping Cleveland's improbable 11-10 come-from-behind victory over Tampa Bay at Progressive Field with a bases-loaded walkoff single, beating the Rays at their own fight-until-the-last-out type of game.
The Rays had taken a 10-0 lead in the fourth, giving David Price a nice cushion, but the largest collapse in club history included seven runs in the ninth, six with two outs. In the rally, Rays relievers walked five, with veteran Jason Isringhausen walking three, one with the bases loaded, before giving up the two-run single to Martinez.
"Just a bad night; I couldn't find the plate," Isringhausen said. "It's inexcusable to walk three guys like that; I can't remember the last time I did that. … I'd rather give up three home runs than give them free passes. It's just a shame how well we came out and hit the ball and let it slip away from us."
Isringhausen may have struggled, but the loss was a team effort.
There was touted prospect Price, who lasted 31/3 innings in his anticipated season debut. Price, recalled from Triple-A Durham, gave up two runs but struggled with his command, walking five and throwing 100 pitches.
The Rays (23-24) scored five in the second, partly thanks to four straight walks by Indians starter Fausto Carmona, who lasted 11/3 innings. Reid Brignac added a two-run single for the first RBIs of his career, and Gabe Gross later hit a two-run homer.
But Price got his pitch count up quickly, tossing 77 through his first three innings. He had been held to a 75-pitch limit at Durham, where he failed to last more than five innings in each of his eight outings.
Price "had great stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "But he was all over the place. We've got to get more consistent command out of him; you get that kind of lead, you should at least get your starter through five."
Price's short outing taxed the bullpen, which has thrown nine innings the past two days. The Indians started to make things interesting in the eighth, loading the bases off Dale Thayer before scoring two.
In the ninth, it all fell apart. With two on and one out, left-hander Randy Choate got what he wanted, a ground ball from Shin-Soo Choo, but Brignac made an errant throw to second, allowing a run to score and runners to land on second and third.
"I think (Brignac) may have been thinking (going for a double play) when one would have been enough right there," Maddon said. "Obviously that was a big play, but we had plenty of time to right ourselves."
Grant Balfour got the second out before leaving a fastball up, which Ryan Garko belted for a three-run homer. He walked another before Isringhausen came in. Maddon said the bullpen has worked so much the past two days, he was contemplating using Wednesday's starter, Andy Sonnanstine, late in relief if need be.
"Obviously, the game should have never gotten to that point," Balfour said. "We should have won that game, hands down. To their credit, they came back and they beat us (Monday). Tough loss right there."
With Martinez's last hit, he broke out of an 0-for-18 slump. He said he wanted to be a "tough out," especially with Isringhausen having trouble throwing strikes.
The Rays have lost 14 straight in Cleveland dating to 2005.
"The fight has been consistent," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "But when you do something like this, it's special."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.