CLEVELAND -- Before this week, the Indians hadn't faced the Rangers since the season's opening series. Obviously, quite a bit has changed with the Tribe's roster in that span. And apparently, quite a bit has changed with respect to the Rangers, as well. Whereas the Rangers outslugged the Indians in that season-opening sweep in Arlington, they outpitched the Tribe in the last two games of this week's three-game set, which wrapped up with the Indians' 4-1 loss Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field. It was just the second series loss for Cleveland in its past seven.
The Indians looked helpless at the plate against Rangers starter Tommy Hunter on Wednesday night, and they didn't fare much better against Scott Feldman and the Texas bullpen in this one. "They've always hit," manager Eric Wedge said of the Rangers, "but the difference this year is their pitching. It has to start with the starting pitching. We were able to shut them down and score a couple runs the first night, and that's exactly what they did to us these last two days." While Feldman was solid for six innings, the Indians didn't get the most efficient or effective of starts from Jeremy Sowers, and that was the difference. Sowers started out strong, working his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the first. But the Rangers began to get to him with a pair of two-out runs in the third, when Josh Hamilton lofted a fly ball to left that got by a diving Trevor Crowe. It went for a double that gave Texas a 2-1 lead. "I got out of the first inning and nearly got out of the third," Sowers said. "Unfortunately, Trevor came up just a little bit short." In the fourth, Elvis Andrus took Sowers deep with two out and none on. And in the sixth, Sowers gave up a leadoff double to Hamilton, a single to Hank Blalock and a sacrifice fly to David Murphy to make it 4-1. Sowers left with one out and 101 pitches under his belt. "He pitched better than his line," Wedge said. "It was a tight zone for both sides. They dropped a couple balls in the right places and we didn't." The Indians certainly had their chances. Their only run off Feldman came when Shin-Soo Choo scored Jamey Carroll from third with a sacrifice fly in the first. But the Indians had two runners in scoring position with one out in the third, only to see Choo strike out and Jhonny Peralta line out to Feldman. Cleveland also had two on with none out in the fourth, but Crowe struck out looking and Chris Gimenez grounded into a double play. "I didn't have any 1-2-3 innings or any quick innings," Feldman said. "I seemed to get a couple of guys on every inning. But for some reason, I executed my pitches better today with runners in scoring position." The Tribe bats didn't execute well at all. "Their guys [the last two games] definitely pounded the strike zone and made us put the ball in play," Gimenez said. But the Indians didn't put the ball in play much. Feldman notched six strikeouts, and flame-throwing reliever Neftali Feliz, who was clocked as high as 99 mph, stole the show by striking out the first five batters he faced in the seventh and eighth. "He has good stuff," Gimenez said of Feliz. "You hear about the guys who throw 100 [mph], but he doesn't look like he throws 100. It's a smooth 100. And he's got good secondary stuff, too." The Indians have been feisty in the wake of late July's torrent of trades, but the youth and inconsistency of their offense tends to catch up to them at various stages, and the last two games of this series were an example of that. "[The Rangers'] pitching the last couple days has been very good," Wedge said.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.