ARLINGTON -- The American League's top two teams expected some back and forth in their series this week, but trading blowouts was probably not what the Rangers and Indians had in mind. On Saturday night, A.J. Griffin's strong start and a big first inning helped Texas pull off a 7-0 romp over the Tribe at Globe Life Park.
"I think A.J. capitalized when he got the lead and did what he needed to do with the back-to-front, up-to-down game to keep hitters off-balance," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "More than anything else, it was getting ahead and staying ahead."
While Griffin gave the Rangers six shutout innings in arguably his best outing of the season, Indians starter Carlos Carrasco turned in another abbreviated outing for a Cleveland rotation that has labored of late. Carrasco was charged with three earned runs, but gave up seven overall in four innings for the AL Central-leading Indians. The righty struck out eight and walked one in the loss.
This marked the ninth time this month that an Indians starter allowed at least six runs in fewer than five innings.
Four runs came off the bat of Mitch Moreland, whose grand slam in the first capped off a five-run outpouring for the AL West-leading Rangers. Elvis Andrus' two-run double in the third helped spread things open for Texas, which lost, 12-1, on Friday after routing the Indians, 9-0, in the series opener on Thursday.
"I actually told myself, 'Treat it like any other at-bat,'" Moreland said. "I was trying to take a little bit of the [pressure] off me and just see a good pitch and drive it, and I was able to do that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Desmond's deke: After Ian Desmond and Carlos Beltran singled with one out in the first, Carrasco balked and moved them to second and third. Adrian Beltre then hit a ground ball to third baseman Jose Ramirez that might have been an inning-ending double play without the balk. Ramirez saw Desmond take a few steps toward home and attempted to tag him with a dive. But Desmond eluded the tag with a dive of his own, as Beltre was safe on a fielder's choice to load the bases.
"That was a big play by [Desmond], catching [Ramirez's] attention and making it back to extend the inning there," Moreland said. "To scratch some runs early was nice. It let A.J. kind of fall into his groove."
"He looked him back like he's supposed to," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez. "And then I think he felt like he had a chance to get him. If he makes the out, it's a really good play. And, it's going fast. It's easy to sit back and go, 'Well, he should've done this.' The game's going pretty quick."
Moreland's slam: Two singles, Desmond's creativity at third and a fielding error by first baseman Carlos Santana set up an eventual bases-loaded at-bat for Moreland. Carrasco had hardly been hit hard to that point, but the righty hung a first-pitch slider over the heart of the plate to the left-handed Moreland. Texas' first baseman drove the pitch into the stands down the right-field line, putting Cleveland in a 5-0 hole. The Indians now have a 5.20 ERA in the first inning this season.
"So many things happened in the one inning," Francona said. "It was a bad inning, and then he gets a strikeout and throws a terrible pitch, just a get-me-over breaking ball, and Moreland hit that. That was a crushing [blow]. A lot of things led up to it, but that really hurt."
Elvis hounds Tribe: Andrus broke the game open with a two-run double that gave the Rangers a 7-0 lead in the third. Rougned Odor doubled and Moreland was intentionally walked to set the table for the Texas shortstop. Andrus, who went 2-for-4, has hit safely in 53 of 56 career games against the Indians, and his .373 average against them trails just Nomar Garciaparra for the highest in the last 100 years (min. 200 at-bats).
Griffin finds his groove: Backed with a seven-run lead, Griffin put together his finest outing since coming off the 15-day disabled list (right shoulder stiffness) on June 25. He threw six scoreless innings and struck out six with one walk. Of the five hits he allowed, three were singles, and he didn't allow more than one hit in an inning. It was Griffin's second outing of at least six innings since coming off the DL and his first scoreless start of the year.
"I feel like my fastball velocity was as good as it's been tonight," Griffin said. "I just got to continue to work and just go out there prepare myself for each start. I kind of tried to put my blinders on a little bit and execute my game plan with my pitches and keep them off-balance."
"A little bit of a playoff atmosphere, I suppose, tonight. It was pretty packed out there, and the fans were into it." -- Griffin
"We talk about it all the time. If you make errors or you don't finish plays, especially against good teams, they make you pay like they did tonight." -- Francona
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• The Rangers clinched the season series over the Indians with a 4-2 lead heading into Sunday's series finale. More >
GIMENEZ TAKES THE MOUND
For the second time this season, Francona turned to backup catcher Chris Gimenez as a pitcher. After burning through three relievers, Francona gave Gimenez the ball for the eighth inning, and the catcher answered the call by retiring Andrus, Robinson Chirinos and Nomar Mazara in order on 10 pitches. Only July 3, Gimenez worked the last two innings of a 17-1 loss to the Blue Jays. The catcher also pitched an inning for Texas on July 10, 2014. More >
"I just thought that if we wouldn't have, we were going to have to make a roster move," said Francona, referring to using Gimenez as a pitcher. "I don't think anybody deserved to lose their job. So, that's why we did it."
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Cleveland will be hoping to see righty Danny Salazar (11-5, 3.90 ERA) get back on track on Sunday, when the Tribe takes on Texas at 3:05 p.m. ET in the finale of this four-game set. Salazar had a 2.22 ERA through his first 15 starts this year, but has a 9.31 ERA in his past seven. He allowed six runs in four innings on Tuesday in Oakland.
Rangers: Left-hander Derek Holland will start the action at 2:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at Globe Life Park. Holland, who has a 2.74 ERA in eight career starts against the Indians, allowed just one run in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday -- his first start after being reinstated from the 60-day disabled list (left shoulder inflammation).