ARLINGTON, Texas: Expectations are not high for Northeast Ohio fans when the Indians step off their charter flight to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Tribe partisans fear what is coming: another drubbing by the Rangers. It has happened many times in the past and no let up is in sight after Monday night’s 6-3 Indians defeat.
Coming into the game, the Rangers had posted a 12-3 home record against the Tribe since 2009. Yes, this is a different Indians team, but it also is a club mired in the midst of a serious skid, having lost eight in a row and 16 of the past 20.
How to stop the slide?
“Just working hard and grinding, because there’s no magic potion,” manager Terry Francona said. “Maybe there is, but you’d probably go to jail. We’re going to find out about ourselves. I think we have the guys to fight through this, but it’s not fun.”
The plot line for most of the defeats has been similar: Starting pitching that fails to keep the club in the game, an erratic bullpen, a sickly offense and a penchant for making mistakes in the field or on the bases.
Monday night, starter Scott Kazmir did his job, but the relief corps gave up two runs and let in one for Kazmir to put the Rangers ahead. The attack was marginal, at best; one error, by Mark Reynolds, wasn’t costly.
Kazmir, too, expressed hope.
“We’re struggling,” he said. “Little things are costing us games: one pitch, one play in the field, just something little. We’re battling, but things aren’t going our way.”
Josh Lindblom is not quite the raw rookie that Jose Alvarez is. Alvarez is the guy who held the Tribe to one run and three hits in six innings Sunday against the Tigers.
But the comparison certainly is apt.
Lindblom was called up by the Rangers Sunday from Triple-A Round Rock to start against the Indians Monday night. It was his second career start in the majors, both this year.
Lindblom came with solid Triple-A credentials: a season record of 6-0 with a 2.04 ERA, best in the Pacific Coast League. But the last time anyone checked, the PCL is not the big leagues.
Nevertheless, Lindblom was one pitch from throwing six shutout innings. His moment of mortality came in the third, when Mike Aviles beat out a single to the shortstop, Jason Kipnis singled with one out, and Nick Swisher walked to load the bases. With two outs, Carlos Santana lined a ball to right that rolled to the wall for a bases-clearing double.
The only other hits off Lindblom were two-out singles in the first inning by Swisher and Michael Brantley.
“When he threw that slow breaking ball for strikes, he got us out,” Francona said. “When he didn’t is when we scored.”
Altogether, Lindblom gave up five hits and only one walk, striking out six.
When he left, the score was 3-3, so he did not get credit for a win and was not charged with a loss.
Kazmir, like Lindblom, made one mistake that cost him the lead. Giving up a run on Craig Gentry’s RBI single in the second was hardly fatal. But the pain increased by several degrees in the fourth, when A.J. Pierzynski led off with a single and trotted home on Jeff Baker’s home run to tie the score.
“I felt pretty good, it was just that changeup to Baker,” Kazmir siad. “I feel maybe I would throw him the same pitch but in a better location.”
After the home run, Kazmir retired eight batters in a row through the sixth inning. He came out for the seventh and gave up a double to Jurickson Profar and a bad-hop infield single to Elvis Andrus.
That triggered Kazmir’s exit. Nick Hagadone took over and benefitted from a strange double play. David Murphy hit a bouncer to first; Santana stepped on the bag and threw out Profar, who was trying to squeeze an extra base out of the play and was nailed at third.
“Kazmir still had pretty good stuff when he went out for the seventh,’’ Francona said. “I was trying to go with power there with Nick. I thought we could get out of it with nothing. He threw a fastball and didn’t locate it.”
Lance Berkman hit it over the wall in left for a two more runs, and later in the inning, Cody Allen gave up a walk and a double to Nelson Cruz to make it a three-run inning.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.