Mitch Talbot tossed his second five-hitter in less than a week as the Montgomery Biscuits blanked the Huntsville Stars, 7-0, on Thursday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Southern League Championship Series.
Talbot (2-0) struck out 10, walked two and did not allow a runner past second base. He also pitched a five-hit shutout against Jacksonville in the decisive game of the South Division Finals on Saturday.
"I wasn't locating my offspeed stuff all that well tonight, but I was really spotting my fastball," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "Against Jacksonville, I was locating everything. I was getting my fastball, changeup and 'slurve' where I wanted them to go."
Talbot, who joined the Tampa Bay organization in July as part of the Aubrey Huff trade, went 4-3 with a 1.90 ERA in 10 starts for the Biscuits. The Cedar City, Utah, native was 6-4 with a 3.39 ERA for Corpus Christi of the Texas League before the deal.
While Talbot didn't have a complete game during the regular season, he said he has improved as the season wore on.
"I threw really well in my last six or seven starts for Corpus Christi and I've been able to build on it here," he said. "I've been learning a lot about pitching to certain hitters in particular situations. I've been getting better, and I'm just rolling with it.
"Going into Spring Training next year, I think that making the (Devil Rays') roster will be something I can try to do."
Montgomery took a 2-0 lead in the third on Ryan Christianson's home run and John Raburn's RBI groundout. Michael Coleman slugged a solo shot, his second roundtripper in two games, in the fourth and added an RBI single in the Biscuits' four-run eighth.
Coleman scored in the eighth on Jeremy Owens' three-run, inside-the-park homer that gave Talbot a seven-run cushion with three outs to go. Owens' shot down the right-field line ricocheted off the berm and brick wall at Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium, sending second baseman Callix Crabbe and right fielder Roy Acuna on a long chase as the speedy Owens circled the bases.
"The runs (in the eighth) took some pressure off," Talbot said. "I was still under my pitch count going into the ninth and I really wanted to finish the game."
Stars starter Yovani Gallardo (1-1) surrendered three runs on five hits over six innings, striking out seven and walking one. Mike Jones blanked the Biscuits in the seventh, but gave up four runs in the eighth.
The Biscuits can capture the first title in their three-year history on Friday, when they host Game 4 at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Talbot believes Montgomery is primed to close out the series.
"I have great confidence in our team, especially at home," he said. "We've won two games in a row, so we have lots of momentum. We've really been making good contact hitting the ball as a team, and we're playing very good defense."