September 21, 2014

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Indians keep finding ways to lose

CLEVELAND — Aren’t the Rangers the ones that are supposed to be dead and buried?
Texas depleted its team with a number of moves at the trading deadline, but the last-place Rangers have been good enough to beat the Indians twice in two nights.
Of course, the way Cleveland has been playing, it doesn’t take much.
With their offense finally showing brief signs of life, the Indians were instead done in by poor pitching, which paved the way for a 9-6 loss to Texas in 10 innings — their season-high fourth straight defeat.
The Indians, who had the chance to return to the top of the Central Division standings with a win, led 6-4 through six innings before the Rangers tied it with two runs in the seventh off usually reliable Rafael Betancourt.
Texas won it in the 10th off Jensen Lewis, who made a pair of poor fielding decisions, the last one costing Cleveland the game.
After throwing late to second on a sacrifice bunt that put two on with none out, Lewis fielded another sacrifice bunt attempt from Ian Kinsler, looking first to third before uncorking a wild toss to first base that allowed former Indian Ramon Vazquez to score the go-ahead run.
The Rangers scored two more times in the inning to put the game away.
“We’ve been putting ourselves in a position where things like that can happen,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, whose team has played shoddily in the field the past three games. “When you do put yourself in that position, you have to execute and make plays.
“We need to do a better job early to middle, so we don’t make it so tough on ourselves late.”
The Indians, 8-11 since the All-Star break, lost for the seventh time in nine games on the current homestand and secured their fourth straight series defeat at home after beginning the year 13-2-1.
The struggling Indians offense arrived for a spell, digging out of a hole created by starting pitcher Paul Byrd, who allowed the first three hitters he faced to reach base on hits and the Rangers to score three times in the opening inning.
A pair of home runs from Jason Michaels and Casey Blake accounted for three of the four runs Cleveland scored to take the lead back in the bottom of the second.
The offense resurfaced in the fifth to retake the lead again, 6-4, but Indians hitters went back to sleep when it mattered most, mustering just three hits over the final five innings. The Rangers’ bullpen retired 17 of the last 20 hitters it faced.
Byrd left in position to get his 10th victory of the season after allowing four runs (three earned) on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings, and with a two-run lead. But the veteran right-hander was let down by Cleveland’s bullpen, which allowed five runs over the last four innings.
The veteran right-hander, who had won his last two starts coming in, fooled few through the first two innings, surrendering six of his 10 hits, as the Rangers scored three times in the opening inning.
“I don’t think this game was lost late,” Byrd said. “I think it was lost early with me not having my control.
“We’re in a little bit of a slump right now. We need to press on and get out of this. It’s another test of our adversity and we need to respond.”
The Indians put two aboard in the 10th and had the tying run at the plate in Kenny Lofton, who pinch hit in the eighth for Michaels. Lofton saw four pitches from C.J. Wilson, getting called out on strikes and arguing with home plate umpire Adam Dowdy. 
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.