GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - Mitch Talbot suddenly found his form. Cleveland reliever Jensen Lewis lost his touch just as quickly.
Talbot, the Indians' No. 3 starter, worked five strong innings in a 9-7 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday. Lewis came on with two outs and a 6-1 lead in the seventh and promptly yielded three-run homers to Eric Farris and Mike Rivera. Milwaukee closer John Axford then gave up three runs in the bottom half.
Talbot let out a sigh of relief as he entered the clubhouse - and it wasn't from running wind sprints after the best outing of his four starts this spring.
``I made a couple adjustments and felt a lot better,' Talbot said after lowering his ERA from 17.55 to 11.57. ``I wasn't finishing my pitches. When you can't throw a pitch you want, you lose confidence.'
Asked which pitch was giving him trouble, the right-hander replied, ``One through four. I was really struggling.'
In other words, the second-year starter had nothing going until pitching coach Tim Belcher told him to give it all he had after three so-so innings.
``I reached out and said, 'There it is!'' Talbot said. ``I didn't realize I wasn't finishing until I did it on the first warmup pitch in the fourth.'
Talbot trailed 1-0 after two batters. Rickie Weeks tripled to right and scored on a sacrifice fly by Craig Counsell. He settled down to yield one run and six hits, striking out three without a walk.
``Once you find it, it's a weight off your shoulders, like getting your first win,' Talbot said. ``I was releasing the ball a bit too soon. Then, I was able to keep it down for strikes.'
Lewis may want to ask Talbot for a tip or two. The right-hander, plagued by the long ball in the past, didn't help his quest to claim a bullpen job.
``He needs to command his fastball and stay ahead in the count,' manager Manny Acta said. ``He's a two-pitch pitcher and his fastball is not overpowering. He has to locate it.'
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke was concerned that Axford and starter Chris Narveson couldn't command breaking balls.
``John just couldn't put it where he wanted and he has to throw strikes,' Roenicke said. ``Today, it was more of a sweeping break instead of that good downward movement.'
Narveson gave up six hits over 4 2-3 innings, including two-run homers to Carlos Santana and Chad Huffman.
Matt LaPorta had a two-run shot off Kameron Loe to make it 6-1.
Brewers rookie Brandon Kintzler worked one scoreless inning, allowing one inherited runner to score after entering with the bases loaded. He has a 1.04 ERA in six relief outings.
``He's doing everything he can to make the team,' Roenicke said. ``He just pitches. He threw a good slider for strikes.'
NOTES: Cleveland RHP Anthony Reyes faced four batters and yielded two hits and two runs in his 2011 debut. He had elbow surgery in May 2009. ... Indians OF Grady Sizemore ran the bases for the second time since microfracture surgery on his left knee in June and reported no setbacks. Acta said Sizemore may play for the first time Sunday. ... Santana and OF Michael Brantley had three hits apiece for Cleveland. Counsell and OF Luis Cruz each had two of Milwaukee's 12 hits. ... Milwaukee sent RHP Mark Rogers and OF Caleb Gindl to the minors.
The Associated Press News Service
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