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CLE@TOR: Duncan crushes a solo shot to left field

TORONTO -- Every team runs into a rough patch at some point during the marathon that is a baseball season. The Indians are hoping that this past week is only that, and not a sign that the magic is about to end.

On Monday night in Toronto, the Tribe's bats went missing, the defense went haywire and the pitching followed suit, culminating in an ugly 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Blue Jays. Cleveland looked nothing like a team that is pacing its division.

"Hopefully we can brush this one under the table as quickly as possible," Indians designated hitter Shelley Duncan said.

Blue Jays left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes fashioned a complete-game gem against a stale Indians offense and Fausto Carmona turned in a disaster on the hill for the Tribe. It was a combination that sent Cleveland to a forgettable rout during what is turning into a miserable road trip.

Up to this point this season, the Indians have done well in the short-memory department. True, the Tribe has lost five of its past six contests, with little in the way of offense, but the ballclub has not had a losing streak of more than three games this season. Cleveland had slipped as much only twice.

Beyond that, as brutal as this swing through St. Petersburg and Toronto has been -- and it has been brutal -- the Indians remain the cream of the American League Central crop. In fact, the struggling Indians (31-20) still boast the league's best record.

"I think it's still a great club," Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta said. "We're moving the right way. You're going to win some and lose some, but I believe in our team. I believe in what we're doing here."

Even after being dazed and confused by Reyes -- a man without a win in nearly three years -- the Indians hold a five game lead over the Tigers, the AL Central's current runner-up. That was the same lead Cleveland held nearly two weeks ago, when designated hitter Travis Hafner was lost to the disabled list.

Cleveland has kept its head above water amidst the turmoil of injuries and slumping hitters. That provides some hope that this is is just a bump in the road for a team that has been enjoying a fun ride up to this point.

"Every team goes through some of those," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Some of those big clubs already have gone through longer losing streaks. We're scuffling this week, but ... we're still hanging in there.

"It's a matter of time. We've got to be patient and continue to work and our offense will be back."

It would be easy to crack a joke about how the Tribe's bats were lost in customs.

The fact is, however, that the offense has been stagnant for much of the past week. During the recent road series loss to the Rays, Cleveland was shut out twice. Over the last six games, the Indians have been outscored, 44-12, with a .125 (4-for-32) average with runners in scoring position.

"There's a lot of guys that aren't swinging it too well," Duncan said. "You can tell some guys, a lot of us, are searching for those good swings. When you've got nine guys in the lineup who are searching for their swings, it's usually not going to pan out too well."

Against the Blue Jays (28-26), Duncan provided the lone offensive firework. In the fourth inning, Duncan -- filling in at DH for Hafner -- crushed a 1-0 offering from Reyes. The ball towered over left field and crashed into the 500-level seats for a monstrous blast.

It was only the 15th such home run in the history of Rogers Centre.

"That was quite a shot," Acta said. "Duncan is a very strong guy, but it only counts for one run. It doesn't matter how far you hit them."

Toronto received all the offense it would need in the third inning, when former Indians infielder Jayson Nix -- traded to the Blue Jays for cash shortly before the start of the season -- launched a two-run homer off Carmona. One inning later, though, the wheels came completely off.

Carmona (3-6) loaded the bases with no outs and then allowed a two-run double to Rajai Davis to put the Indians behind, 4-1. The floodgates were quickly kicked open with a costly error by second baseman Orlando Cabrera, followed by run-scoring hits from Jose Bautista and J.P. Arencibia.

"I don't know, man," Carmona said. "I tried to keep the ball down. I missed a couple pitches up. A couple pitches, down in the count, I threw them right down the middle."

Cabrera's gaffe came on a grounder off the bat of Corey Patterson at the start of what looked to be a critical inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. Instead, Cabrera bobbled the ball, and then fumbled with it in frustration with his back to home plate.

One run scored easily. Davis sprinted home for another.

"I just think it was a braincramp, basically," Acta said. "He just flat-out didn't react accordingly on that play."

By the end of the fourth, the Indians trailed, 9-1. Toronto added another pair in the fifth off reliever Chad Durbin. The offensive outpouring by the Blue Jays was swift and relentless.

And demoralizing.

"I think that just kind of takes the last breath away," Davis said of the big lead. "When you get down by so much, it's like a mountain that's so high, you feel like it's so hard to climb. I think that's what happens when a team goes ahead by so many runs."

The Indians would hardly argue Davis' take on the situation.

"That big inning," Duncan said, "it really put us on the ropes, changed the mood in the dugout quite a bit."

Carmona hit the showers after being charged with nine runs (seven earned) in just four innings. Reyes, who tied a dubious Major League record with no wins in 28 consecutive starts, earned his first victory since June 13, 2008, when he pitched for the Braves.

Reyes scattered eight hits and issued four walks, but he held the Indians hitless with runners in scoring position.

It was the continuation of a recent trend.

Cleveland is hoping things turn around soon.

"Every great team," Duncan said, "every team that I've seen that's a postseason team or a world championship team, they go through a long period of struggles at some point during a season.

"This stuff happens." Comments