There is nothing good about a season-high four-game losing streak for the Cleveland Indians. Their timing, though, has definitely been a positive.
The Indians hope to avoid their first five-game skid in over a year Thursday afternoon when they conclude a disappointing homestand against the Texas Rangers.
With an opportunity to move into a tie for first place in the AL Central with Detroit, the Indians were held to three hits over the final 5 2-3 innings Wednesday in a 9-6 loss in 10 innings.
Rookie reliever Jensen Lewis failed to get an out on consecutive bunts and the Rangers took advantage with three runs in the 10th.
“We had a good chance there,” Lewis said. “I just didn’t execute.”
The Indians (60-47) had a chance to gain a share of first place for the first time since before games of July 8, but instead dropped to 2-7 on the homestand. Cleveland—8-11 since the All-Star break—could easily be fading from the division race, but the Tigers have lost eight of 10.
“This is probably the lowest this team has been this year,” Cleveland’s Casey Blake said. “Detroit’s going through a tough skid too. We’ve got two months to play and we’re still in good position.”
Even playing at Jacobs Field hasn’t been enough to get the Indians going. They have lost nine of 12 at home after opening the season 33-13 there.
Hoping to inject some life into his struggling offense, Indians manager Eric Wedge dropped designated hitter Travis Hafner to fifth in the batting order, moved Jhonny Peralta up to third and batted Ryan Garko fourth.
“For us to go where we need to go, Travis has to be close to his normal self,” Wedge said.
Hafner, who went 1-for-5 with one RBI Wednesday, is hitting .229 (72-for-314) since going 4-for-4 on April 23.
Saltalamacchia, in his first game with Texas since being acquired from Atlanta on Tuesday in a deal for Mark Teixeira, started at first base and had a two-run single while going 1-for-5.
“It feels good to get the first one out of the way,” Saltalamacchia said. “That was big for me.”
Sammy Sosa did not play for Texas, and that will become a common occurrence the rest of the season.
Sosa, the team leader with 16 homers and 70 RBIs, was told in a closed-door meeting Wednesday that his playing time will be cut, one day after the Rangers traded away two other established stars.
He is batting .182 (6-for-33) in 10 games since July 16.
Jason Botts was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma on Wednesday and went 0-for-5 with a sacrifice fly in his season debut.
The Indians send Jake Westbrook (1-6, 5.85 ERA) to the mound, hoping the right-hander can end a personal four-game losing streak. Westbrook had his best start in a month Saturday against Minnesota, but didn’t receive a decision in Cleveland’s 3-2 loss. He remained winless in eight starts since beating Baltimore on April 27 despite limiting the Twins to two runs and four hits in seven innings.
Westbrook is 4-1 with a 5.30 ERA in nine starts against the Rangers, winning his last two outings against them.
Texas’ Michael Young is batting .375 (9-for-24) with one home run against Westbrook.
Starting for the Rangers will be Kason Gabbard (4-0, 3.74), one of three players acquired on Tuesday in the deal that sent Eric Gagne to the Red Sox. The left-hander will be facing the Indians for the second straight start after he allowed five runs and four hits in 4 2-3 innings on July 26 in Boston’s 14-9 victory. He was outstanding in his three previous starts, yielding only three runs in 22 1-3 innings.