CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Manny Acta does not typically play the comparison game. Wins are wins, whether they come against the cream of the crop or teams residing in division cellars. The same goes for losses.
After Sunday afternoon's 2-0 loss to the reigning American League champs from Texas, Cleveland still could claim 33 victories and a spot atop the AL Central. Four-game sweep at the hands of the Rangers or not, the way Acta sees things, he has a strong group of players.
Acta is known for his optimism, but he is also a realist.
The manager knows that Texas is hardly just another opponent.
"The title is probably going to have to run through Texas again," Acta said.
The Rangers did well in magnifying the Indians' struggles of late throughout the four-game brooming at Progressive Field. The Tribe received a solid effort from starter Mitch Talbot in the latest loss, but the club's bats went alarmingly silent for the second game in a row.
On Saturday, it was Texas lefty Derek Holland who fashioned a nine-inning shutout in Cleveland. One day later, southpaw C. J. Wilson lasted into the eighth, helping pitch Texas' second shutout in as many days. The Tribe had not been blanked twice in a row since Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2009.
Cleveland fans would prefer not to remember that season.
Of course, the way things have been going of late for the Indians (33-24), it might be hard for the team's fans not to linger near the panic button. True, Cleveland is still a first-place team, but it also is a club that has dropped four in a row overall, six in a row at home, and nine of its past 12 games.
What was once a seven-game lead in the Central standings has been whittled down to a 2 1/2-game cushion ahead of the second-place Tigers.
And now, the Indians have looked vulnerable against a top-flight team.
"Pitching is everything," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young said. "At the end of the day, that's what it comes down to, and our pitchers pitched really well this weekend against a team that has been playing well."
Over the four-game sweep, the Indians were outscored, 24-6, by the AL West-leading Rangers (34-26). In the finale of the set in Cleveland, Talbot worked six solid innings and scattered eight hits. The only damage was a pair of solo home runs -- one to Mitch Moreland in the second and another to Elvis Andrus in the third.
That was all it took on this afternoon.
It was practically a repeat of Saturday's loss. Fausto Carmona was solid enough for the Tribe, but the right-hander allowed a pair of two-run home runs. Given the absence of offense -- Cleveland has managed only two runs in its last 29 innings -- those blasts held up as the difference.
"There's not many holes over there," said Talbot, who struck out four. "They've definitely got some guys that can swing the bat."
That was a nice compliment from Talbot (2-2), but the reality is that the right-hander pitched well enough to collect a win.
The real issue continues to rest with Cleveland's offense.
Against Wilson (6-3), Acta was again forced to work with a depleted lineup.
Grady Sizemore -- being handled carefully after returning recently from a right knee injury -- had a scheduled day off. Jack Hannahan remained out with a left hamstring issue. Travis Hafner (right oblique) is still stuck on the disabled list. The struggling Shin-Soo Choo was also dropped from third to sixth in the order.
The result was not pretty.
Michael Brantley went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks out of the leadoff spot, but the rest of the lineup finished 2-for-26 against Wilson (7 2/3 innings) and a pair of Rangers relievers. Cleveland came up dry with runners in scoring position, but only received two such opportunities.
Acta is running short on ideas.
"You just have to be patient," Acta said. "You continue to work. Our coaches work really hard with these guys. We prepare them the best way we can. Then, after that, you have to be patient and just continue to stay positive with them and wait until a couple of them get hot.
"There's only so many combinations of lineups that you can do when you only have a couple of guys swinging the bat well. Bugs Bunny is a cartoon. I can't hit Brantley and [Asdrubal] Cabrera in every spot -- only in two."
Acta can only hope for some better health for his team and for a few more of his hitters to break free from their persistent slumps. After all, if the series against the Rangers was indeed some kind of measuring stick for the Indians, the summer might take a sour turn.
The Tribe knows, however, it is still too early to begin thinking that way.
"These guys just came in and outplayed us," Acta said. "They came in here and showed us why they are the American League champs. They have a very good ballclub. They're talented up and down, and very deep, too.
"Even when things are not going well for us, I still think that they just outplayed us."