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Berkman ends power drought with game-deciding homer

The SportsXchange

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Lance Berkman tried not to get caught up in his slump and neither did Texas manager Ron Washington, both figuring the veteran would eventually find his stroke.

In the seventh inning Monday night, the switching-hitting Berkman did just that. His two-out, two-run bomb proved the difference in a 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Rangers Ballpark.

"Slump or no slump, it's all about picking up W's," said Berkman, who came into the game with one RBI in his last 12 games and one home run in the previous 24. "Tonight was a big one."

The win not only allowed the Rangers (38-25) to open a long homestand on the right foot, it continued the misery for the Indians. Cleveland has dropped eight straight and 12 in a row on the road.

The Indians (30-33) haven't had a losing road streak this long within a season since dropping the last 15 away games of 2009. The eight-game overall skid is the longest since losing nine consecutive in August of 2012.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona said there is no magic formula for ending the slide.

"Work hard and grind because there isn't a magic potion," he said. "We're going to find out a lot about ourselves right now and I think that's why I feel okay about this."

The Rangers have won two straight after a season-high-tying three-game losing streak. The second game of the three-game series -- and second in Texas' season-high 11-game homestand -- is Tuesday night.

Cleveland couldn't hold on to an early lead, but that's normally been the case against Texas. The Rangers are 27-8 against the Indians since 2009, the third-best record in any MLB matchup in that timeframe.

Rangers rookie starter Josh Lindblom, a minor-league call-up with Alexi Ogando on the disabled list, overcame one shaky inning to make it through six before leaving with the game tied 3-3. In only the second start of his career, Lindblom gave up five hits and struck out six.

"He really locked in and kept us close and gave us a chance," Washington said of Lindblom.

Lindblom also went toe-to-toe with Cleveland veteran Scott Kazmir, who was chased in the seventh after Jurickson Profar doubled and Elvis Andrus reached on an infield single. Cleveland reliever Nick Hagadone coaxed a double play, but Berkman crushed the big home run to left to put Texas back on top 5-3. The Rangers added another run on a Nelson Cruz double later in the inning.

Francona felt good about the Hagadone-Berkman matchup.

"The way it unfolded, it looked like we were going to get out of it with nothing," Francona said, "but he threw a fastball and didn't locate it, and we paid for it."

Berkman was just hoping to drive in the runner from third in that game-deciding at-bat.

"In that situation you're not trying to hit a home run," he said. "You're just trying to hit it hard."

Texas reliever Robbie Ross (3-1) picked up the win by working a scoreless seventh and Joe Nathan pitched the ninth to earn his 20th save. Kazmir took the loss, falling to 3-4 and 0-4 on the road.

The Rangers mounted a two-rally in the second to get to Kazmir. After the first two were retired, A.J. Pierzynski started it with a single and Jeff Baker followed by working a walk.

Craig Gentry lined a base hit past diving shortstop Mike Aviles to score Pierzynski for a 1-0 lead. After an error, Kazmir struck out Andrus looking with the bases loaded to end the threat.

The Indians struck back in the third to take the lead with three runs off Lindblom. Aviles started things with a single and, after an out, Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher reached to load the bases.

Lindblom was in position to get out of the jam by getting Michael Brantley to pop up in the infield. Carlos Santana ended those hopes with a bases-clearing double to right to put Cleveland up 3-1.

The Rangers knotted the game at 3-3 in the fourth on Baker's ninth homer of the season, a two-run shot to left. Baker has hit four long balls in the last six games.

NOTES: Texas announced the signing of its top three selections from the 2013 MLB draft. Both first-round selections, RHP Alex Gonzalez (23rd overall) and SS Travis Demeritte (30th overall), as well as second-round pick RHP Akeem Bostick completed physicals and signed contracts. Gonzalez has been assigned to Spokane of the Northwest League, while Demeritte and Bostick will go to the Arizona League. The Rangers have now signed or agreed to terms with nine of their top 10 picks and 11 of the first 13 selections. Overall, the team has agreements with 18 of 41 picks. ... Cleveland acquired INF John McDonald from Pittsburgh in exchange for a player to be named and/or cash considerations. McDonald gives the Indians an experienced shortstop to back up Aviles while starter Asdrubal Cabrera is on the DL.
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