ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.: The Indians couldn’t score a run off novice starter Alex Cobb on Saturday night, but they pounded Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price for eight runs Sunday afternoon.
The scientific explanation? That’s baseball, with apologies to all the sabermetricians in the audience.
After struggling through 20 scoreless innings, the Tribe offense exploded for double-digit runs in pounding out a 13-0 win at Tropicana Field, salvaging one of the three games at Tampa Bay and completing the first trip of the season with a 3-3 record.
“When you get this game figured out, let me know,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We don’t score for two nights, and we’re going against a Cy Young winner today.”
Battering the peerless Price is an achievement of note. Consider this: In six previous starts against the Wahoos, Price was 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA and a batting average against of .163.
On Sunday, the Indians scored more runs than they had in all of their previous games combined (7) against him. In addition, in three previous starts at Tropicana Field, Price had not allowed an earned run. All of the runs he yielded Sunday were earned, and the Tribe’s batting average against him was .400.
“We went 20-some innings without scoring a run,” said Mark Reynolds, one of the leaders of the Tribe attack. “We had to score against someone. It happened to be him.”
The home run swing was the featured weapon of the day for the Tribe. Price gave up a three-run bomb to Reynolds in the third inning and another three-run blast to Lonnie Chisenhall in the fifth.
Kyle Farnsworth allowed a second home run to Reynolds, leading off the seventh, and Brandon Gomes gave up a leadoff homer to Michael Bourn in the eighth. Reynolds, who also doubled, has four home runs for the season and seven RBI.
The relentless display of power continued into the ninth, when Carlos Santana ripped a line drive over the right-field wall for two more runs. Santana had a career day, going 5-for-5 with two doubles, two singles, the home run, three RBI and three runs scored.
“I tried to be aggressive, and the hits happened,” Santana said.
An impartial observer might say that Price was not quite at his best. That same observer would have to conclude that Justin Masterson was totally on his game. His excellent performance was obscured by all the balls sailing out of the yard off the bats of his teammates.
Masterson (2-0, 0.69 ERA) delivered seven shutout innings, giving up two hits — none after the third inning — and retired the last 13 batters he faced, five on strikeouts. Masterson has a tendency to run up his pitch count, but Sunday he used a thrifty 97 pitches, walking three and striking out eight.
“Masterson really showed his colors,” Francona said, referring to the importance of going .500 on the trip and going home with a little momentum. “He realized his responsibility.
“He had that two-seamer and four-seamer going, and his breaking ball probably was the best I’ve ever seen it. He was good, and he never fell into patterns.”
All Masterson wanted to talk about was the hitters.
“The breaking ball was nice,” he said. “But that was just the side story. Stick with the offense. This day was a testament to those guys. They came out and bamboozled them. We were crushing the ball. I just watched them.”
Through the third inning, it looked like Masterson might not be in for such a smooth ride.
With two out in the first, he loaded the bases on a single and two walks but struck out Yunel Escobar. After retiring the side in order in the second, Masterson walked the leadoff batter in the third but erased him by throwing a double play ball. But before he got the third out, Masterson yielded a single to Ben Zobrist, who wore out Tribe pitching during the series.
In addition to getting both hits off Masterson, Zobrist was 5-for-10 with three doubles and five RBI.
But this was not a day to dwell on the achievements of the Indians’ opponents. It was a game in which the hitters served notice that this is not 2012, when the Tribe scored the second-fewest runs in the American League.
Altogether, the offense amassed 17 hits, including six doubles and five home runs.
“It was like Carlos said before the game,” Masterson said. “Let’s have a happy flight.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.