Indians go quietly against first-place Rangers

Indians go quietly against first-place Rangers

Indians go quietly against first-place Rangers
ARLINGTON -- A glance around Rangers Ballpark shows just how far the Indians are from truly being an American League contender. Pennants flying from flagpoles high atop the stadium. Seats packed. All-Stars filling the bench in the home dugout.

This is what Cleveland -- the team, its fans, the city -- wants to experience again.

On Wednesday night, the Indians were handled with apparent ease by the Rangers in a 5-2 loss, dropping Cleveland to 3-6 on the current road trip. Tribe manager Manny Acta has called Texas the best team in the American League plenty of times, and the Rangers have not disappointed in backing him up.

"This organization has been there before," Acta said of the Indians. "It takes time. They've done a very good job over there of putting that [Rangers] club together over the last few years."

Cleveland starter Jeanmar Gomez lasted only four innings against the two-time defending AL-champion Rangers (85-57), who benefited from home runs off the bats of sluggers Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton. Texas righty Ryan Dempster took advantage of the support, sending the Tribe to its 35th loss in 44 games.

Over that stretch, Cleveland has suffered losing streaks of 11, nine, six and five games.

The Indians headed into this season with high hopes and the belief that they could compete for a postseason spot. For a while, Cleveland flirted with that prospect, residing in first place in the AL Central 70 games into the schedule. The Tribe is now mired in last place, playing out the season with an eye toward 2013.

There are multiple causes behind the Indians' collapse and multiple holes in need of attention in the coming months.

First and foremost, Cleveland's starting rotation -- 8-27 with a 6.96 ERA over the past 44 games -- warrants attention. Gomez, who has bounced between the Majors and Triple-A this year, has disappointed, providing one in a handful of question marks where there was initially optimism. The right-hander's latest outing did not help matters.

Gomez (5-8) took the loss after giving up five runs on six hits in his brief appearance.

"It's unfortunate," Acta said, "because we really felt that this year was a year that he was going to take a step forward. He started the season well, but he hasn't pitched well ever since. We felt it was a very important year for his development."

Gomez knows all too well that he has fallen short of expectations.

"It's been a tough year," he said. "I started good in Spring Training and the first two months after that I had trouble a little bit. But, it's part of it. You have to learn as much as you can for the next year -- don't make the same mistakes. I'm trying to learn all I can."

Beltre highlighted a three-run outburst by the Rangers in the first inning with his 32nd home run of the season -- a two-run shot to left field. Hamilton added a towering 434-foot blast into the second deck above right field in the third, marking his 41st long ball of the year. Their combined 73 home runs are as many as the Indians have in the past 82 games as a team.

"He's been smoking hot," Acta said of Beltre, who has hit .405 with 13 home runs and 24 RBIs over his last 20 games. "He doesn't miss any pitches. If you make a mistake, it usually ends up off the wall or over the wall. He's in a very good groove right now."

Over the past 44 games, dating back to when the Indians sat just 3 1/2 games out of first place, the club's offense has averaged only 3.2 runs per game. The combination of the poor starting pitching and the low run support of late made Texas' 4-0 lead by the third inning seem like too much to overcome.

In the end, even after lefty David Huff and two more Tribe relievers blanked Texas over the final four frames, that proved to be the case.

"Getting runs early just gives out pitcher confidence to pound the strike zone," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. "Dempster did that tonight."

Dempster improved to 11-6 with a 2.86 ERA on the season after limiting the Indians (59-84) to two runs on seven hits in his seven frames. Cleveland's only output against the right-hander came courtesy of a fielder's choice groundout from Casey Kotchman in the fourth and a sacrifice fly from Carlos Santana in the fifth.

The Tribe loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning, but the club has struggled mightily in such situations this season. Cleveland again fell short, coming through with just one run at that opportune turn. Dempster struck out Lonnie Chisenhall and Brent Lillibridge on either side of Kotchman's run-scoring chopper.

"We had our opportunities," Acta said. "We didn't take advantage."

That statement from Acta also sums up Cleveland's season.

"We're in a little bit of a different situation [than Texas]," Acta said. "But our goal is to have a winning team on the field. It's been done here before."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.