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TEX@CLE: Kotchman's blast pulls the Tribe within two

CLEVELAND -- The good news is that August is no more. Maybe the Indians can view the season's final month as a clean slate, a chance to right some of the historic wrongs of the past four weeks with an eye toward next year.

Really, that is all Cleveland can do at the moment.

This season turned from promising to pungent for the Indians in a span of one single month. Cleveland's 5-3 loss to Texas on Friday night marked the club's sixth defeat in a row in an August full of streaks framed by futility.

"It's been a really tough month for all of us," starter Ubaldo Jimenez said. "Definitely, we can't wait to move on."

The Tribe ended August with a 5-24 record, tying the 1914 Indians' club record (set in July in that campaign) for the most losses in one calendar month. This marks only the 46th time since 1921, and just the fourth in the past 30 years, that a team has lost at least 24 games in one month.

This year's Astros also accomplished that dubious feat with 24 losses in July; it's the first time since 1982 that a pair of teams lost at least that many in a month in the same season. In 1982, the Twins dropped 26 games in May, and the Mets suffered 24 defeats in August.

Jimenez's inconsistency has been an ongoing issue this season. Of course, consistency has been tough to find anywhere within the rotation, which has been overhauled since Opening Day.

For August, Cleveland's starters combined for a 5-17 record and a Major League-worst 6.24 ERA. The bullpen went 0-7 with a 4.46 ERA. Overall, Indians pitchers posted a 5.53 ERA for the month.

"You can pinpoint certain things," manager Manny Acta said, "and everything is going to go wrong at some point. We blew some games. We made some errors. We didn't hit at times. But for the most part, pitching sets the tone. That's how you win and you lose ballgames.

"It's all about pitching. And it's been a struggle."

Jimenez (9-14) gave the Indians 5 2/3 innings in a 117-pitch effort, allowing four runs on eight hits against the two-time defending American League-champion Rangers. The right-hander struck out seven and walked three, and took his seventh loss in his past eight decisions.

"I started falling behind in the count," he said. "I wasn't able to throw the first pitch for a strike to any hitter. That was a problem."

In the first inning, Ian Kinsler singled off Jimenez, stole second base and scored on a single by Adrian Beltre. Michael Young and David Murphy added run-scoring hits off Jimenez in the third. In the sixth, Murphy tripled and scored on a double from Kinsler, knocking Jimenez out of the ballgame.

"We had plenty of opportunities," Beltre said. "We got some big hits that were huge."

Texas (78-53) had more than enough to send Cleveland to its record loss.

Texas righty Ryan Dempster was strong from the start, breezing through the first 13 hitters without relinquishing a hit. In the fourth, though, Asdrubal Cabrera reached on a throwing error by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, and Carlos Santana later sent him home with an RBI single.

That unearned run was all the Indians produced in six innings against Dempster.

In the ninth inning, the Tribe did all it could to rally. Santana led off with a double against Rangers reliever Koji Uehara, who then surrendered a two-run homer to first baseman Casey Kotchman. The blast trimmed Texas' lead to two runs, but it mattered little when all was said and done. Now the Indians are left looking to September.

A few reserves will be joining the clubhouse on Saturday, when rosters expand to 40 players. It will be a chance for Cleveland to work some options in and out of the lineup and on the mound, in order to evaluate the in-house situation during the preparation period for the coming offseason.

This season, and next, were expected to provide a window for contention.

Instead Cleveland is facing a plethora of questions.

On July 26 the Tribe rallied for a dramatic comeback victory over Detroit's Justin Verlander, pulling within 3 1/2 games of first place in the AL Central. It was viewed as a potential turning point, and it was, only things turned rapidly in the wrong direction.

Cleveland has dropped 15 of its last 16 games and 23 of 28 since taking down Verlander in that memorable contest. Since that win, the Tribe has had losing streaks of 11, nine and, now, six games. It is the first time in the Indians' 112-year history the team has had two losing skids of at least nine games in one year.

The Indians hit .231 as a team and had a .202 showing with runners in scoring position in August.

Maybe September can provide a fresh start, or at least a chance to pick up the pieces.

"It's been the toughest month that I've had in baseball," Acta said. "You can lose a lot in a month, but we lost a lot in just a couple periods of time."

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