Cleveland (15-21) at Tampa Bay (27-11)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 1:10 pm EDT Tue May 18, 2010
  • TV: STO, SUN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Even with their offense in a relative slump, the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching has sparked the best team in the majors to another three-game winning streak.

David Price(notes) has done plenty of winning in his second full season, and he can become the first AL pitcher to six victories Tuesday afternoon as the Rays try to finish a two-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians.

Tampa Bay (27-11) has totaled nine runs and one home run while batting .214 in its last three games, but its steady staff has allowed six runs over that stretch, helping the team to three one-run victories.

After Jeff Niemann(notes) gave up three runs in six innings, the bullpen anchored Monday’s win, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out 10 in five scoreless innings.

That allowed the Rays to tie the game on Hank Blalock’s(notes) RBI single in the eighth inning and beat the Indians 4-3 on Jason Bartlett’s(notes) RBI bunt in the 11th.

“I was lucky I had the team pick me up,” said Niemann, whose quality start may have seemed poor by the Rays’ current standards.

Overall, Tampa Bay pitchers have a 2.74 ERA - easily the best in the AL.

Price (5-1, 2.03 ERA) has been a big reason why, and the emerging left-hander will take the ball Thursday looking to win a third consecutive start for the first time in his career.

Following an inconsistent rookie campaign, Price has begun to realize the potential that made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007, holding each of his first seven opponents to three or fewer runs.

He beat the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, allowing three runs - two earned - in 6 1-3 innings of Tampa Bay’s 4-3 victory.

“I really feel like that was the best stuff I’ve had all year,” Price told the Rays’ official website. “It was a little bit of a letdown that I only went 6 1-3, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Cleveland’s David Huff(notes), meanwhile, may be pitching for his spot in the Indians’ rotation after losing his last four starts.

Huff (1-5, 5.35) had a closed-door meeting with manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher after allowing six runs in 5 2-3 innings of Thursday’s 6-4 loss at Kansas City.

“(Belcher) lit a fire under my butt,” Huff told the Indians’ official website. “We’re on the same page. I’m definitely working to make adjustments and headed in the right direction.”

Tropicana Field may prove a difficult place for Huff to turn things around. In his only start there, he gave up seven runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 7-5 loss on May 17, 2009.

The Indians (15-21) have won 17 in a row against the Rays at home, but they’ve dropped four straight and six of their last seven in St. Petersburg.

Cleveland hopes to get outfielder Grady Sizemore(notes) back Tuesday after he missed Monday’s game with a bruised left knee, but the team will be without shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera(notes), who is expected to go on the disabled list after breaking his left forearm diving for a groundball Monday.

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Starting Pitchers

D. Huff LAD vs. D. Price Tor
2-11 Record 19-6
6.21 ERA 2.72
37 K 188
34 BB 79
1.69 WHIP 1.19


Tuesday, May 18