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TEX@CLE: Carmona escapes a jam with a double play

CLEVELAND -- Had it not been for the second deck in right field at Progressive Field, the baseball Josh Hamilton crushed on Saturday night might have reached E. 9th St., or disturbed some graves across the way in Erie Cemetery.

Fortunately for the Indians, shots of such titanic proportions count the same as a ball that scrapes over the top of a wall. Then again, an absence of offense against Rangers lefty Derek Holland made the blast from Hamilton, and the towering homer Nelson Cruz added later, loom as large as they looked.

The pair of two-run homers surrendered by Indians starter Fausto Carmona proved to be the difference in a 4-0 loss to Texas, adding another layer to a disheartening stretch of games for Cleveland. It has been some time since the Tribe experienced anything resembling its early-season magic.

"It's not a secret that our lineup right now is not in the best shape," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We do need a couple of guys to snap out of it and step up."

The recent slide for the American League Central-leading Indians has included eight losses in a span of 11 games. The team-wide decline dates back longer, though. Since May 3, when Cleveland boasted a 20-8 record, the club has gone 13-15 while trying to survive as the division leader.

So far, the Indians' place atop the standings remains safe.

That said, Cleveland's offense is depleted and struggling. On Saturday, Shin-Soo Choo -- mired in a season-long slump -- was given a "mental break" by Acta. Third baseman Jack Hannahan was out with a left hamstring issue and first baseman Matt LaPorta had a routine day off.

The biggest loss, however, has been Travis Hafner. The designated hitter has been sidelined with a right oblique injury since May 18, and it could be a couple weeks before he returns. Losing Hafner, and dealing with a variety of other issues, has made for a lineup that has been less than ideal.

"Without Hafner," Acta said, "and having to give some of these guys days off here and there, the guys that have been struggling and hurting, it's not the most intimidating lineup."

Holland (5-1) took full advantage.

The lefty spun a shutout for the American League West-leading Rangers (33-26), scattering five hits and ending with five strikeouts and one walk. Cleveland managed some hard-hit balls but sent an array of missed chances right at Texas' fielders. It was just that type of night for the Tribe.

"It's a credit to them," Indians designated hitter Shelley Duncan said. "But we're good enough to hit anybody. We're just in one of those little spells right now. He was hitting corners, changing speeds. We were missing the pitches to hit that he left over the plate."

That made life a little more difficult for Carmona (3-7), who turned in an admirable performance, logging 6 1/3 innings for the Indians. Along the way, the big sinkerballer induced 11 outs via ground balls and finished with two strikeouts and a walk. Carmona pounded the strike zone and created quick outs.

It was simply two ill-fated pitches that swung the game in Texas' favor.

"He made two mistakes," Acta said.

"Two pitches -- two home runs," Carmona echoed.

In the first inning, Hamilton turned the stadium into his personal bandbox with a monstrous shot to right field. The reigning AL Most Valuable Player turned on the first pitch he saw, sending it arcing high to right field, where it disappeared into a sea of fans halfway up the second deck.

The majestic two-run blast, which put the Indians in a 2-0 hole, was measured at an estimated 445 feet. That represented the longest home run launched at Progressive Field this season.

"Carmona was keeping the ball down all night," Hamilton said. "He just got one up. In past history, he tries to stay away from me, but he just got one up."

Then, in the seventh inning, Carmona flinched again.

This time, Cruz launched a 1-2 offering from Carmona to deep left field. The baseball rocketed over the 19-foot wall in left field and carried to the top of the bleacher seats. The home run -- another two-run blast -- came a few rows shy of clearing the stands, landing an estimated 440 feet from home plate.

"Nelson Cruz, I missed a slider up," Carmona said. "Two home runs. Other than that, I kept the ball down, got a lot of ground balls and quick outs."

Carmona picked up the loss -- stretching his winless streak to six starts -- but was not entirely the result of those two home runs. All things considered, Carmona was pleased with his effort, and his manager was not about to complain about the performance, either.

"Fausto pitched pretty well," Acta said. "He gave us a chance for six innings."

This loss had more to do with Cleveland's offense.

Holland held the Tribe to an 0-for-7 showing with runners in scoring position and sent the Indians to their 15th loss in the past 18 meetings with the Rangers. It was also the third time in the past nine games that Cleveland has not scored a run.

In fact, over their past eight losses, the Indians have hit .189 as a team with only 11 combined runs.

The Tribe knows that its fortunes need to change.

"Our lineup right now is scuffling," Acta said. "We're working through that and we have to deal with it. Up to this point, I'm very proud of these guys. Everything that we've done, it's been based on that team effort." Comments