Early deficit does in rallying Indians

Early deficit does in rallying Indians

ARLINGTON -- Tom Mastny's spot start on Tuesday night against the Rangers didn't last much longer than the relief appearances he's more accustomed to.

The game itself, on the other hand, was plenty long -- three hours, 48 minutes, to be exact. And this after a 3:41 affair a night earlier.

The Indians didn't seem to mind the length, although the end result was hardly what they were looking for in this 12-7 loss at Rangers Ballpark. This game could have been wrapped up quicker had the Tribe not made it moderately interesting with some late offensive firepower.

"We put ourselves [in a spot] to get back in the ballgame," manager Eric Wedge said. "We pushed it late. Our guys showed us we thought we could win that ballgame."

They didn't win the ballgame. Mastny's disaster of an emergency start, in which he allowed five runs in 1 1/3 innings before being told he's headed back to Triple-A Buffalo, and the persistent Rangers bats ensured that.

But Wedge offered nothing but pearls of positivity after the messy defeat, primarily because of all the quick outs he's seen his players string together in this season of problems at the plate.

In the first two games of this series, the Indians' upswing on the offensive end -- they are batting .373 (31-for-83) and have scored 20 runs in the series -- is attributable to a combination of the Texas heat, the steady winds, the Rangers' pitching and, generally, a stronger approach.

"The swings are better, the approach is better," Wedge said. "We're coming. We're trying to get these guys relaxed, go out and play and make things happen. We're starting to edge in that direction."

That was the good side of this defeat, in Wedge's eyes.

Still, the bad could hardly be ignored.

Mastny, who had been plucked from Buffalo a day earlier to round out the 'pen, didn't fare well in his first big league start, made in place of the injured Jake Westbrook. Josh Hamilton torched him for a two-run homer in the first, and Milton Bradley immediately followed with a solo shot. A double from David Murphy and a single from Brandon Boggs brought another run home.

Mastny's night ended when he let the Rangers load the bases in the second. He handed the ball over to Jensen Lewis much earlier than he would have liked.

"I tried to go out and give the team some innings," Mastny said. "Obviously, it didn't work out as we planned. But I did the best I can. I can't worry about what happened now."

Mastny was informed after the game that he's going back to Buffalo. Lewis, also freshly promoted, is expected to join him, though Lewis said after the game that he had yet to be told of his fate.

Down 5-0 after Lewis let one of the inherited runners across in the second, the Indians seemed destined to a dismal fate on this night. They had their chances to recover against Rangers left-hander A.J. Murray, but all they mustered was Ben Francisco's RBI single in the third. The Indians stranded five runners between the second and third innings.

"That would have made a difference for us," Wedge said of those early opportunities.

What ended up making the ultimate difference in this one were the runs the Rangers tacked on as the game wore on. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a third-inning solo shot off Lewis, Murphy went deep off Ed Mujica in the sixth and Bradley struck again with another solo homer in the eighth, off Rafael Perez.

This was the kind of battering the Indians braced themselves for. After all, when you go into a ballgame expecting to dole out the innings to a trail of relievers, you hardly expect efficiency.

At the least, the Indians made a game out of the mess. Down, 9-3, in the seventh, they loaded the bases for pinch-hitter Shin-Soo Choo, who ripped a two-run double to center off Jamey Wright. And when Victor Martinez drew a walk to load them up again, pinch-hitter David Dellucci stepped up to bat against Eddie Guardado representing the tying run.

Dellucci, however, flew out to left, quashing all thoughts of a comeback.

"We were one swing away from making it a one- or two-run ballgame and potentially tying it," Wedge said. "Dellucci put a great swing on the ball. The wind knocked it down, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Nor could the Indians do much about their perilous pitching situation on this night.

"Every now and then you have a day where you're up against it," Wedge said. "Not everything aligns where you have depth. Our guys did a good job not giving into it."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.