CLEVELAND -- The goal right now for the Indians is to forget about Wednesday afternoon as quickly as humanly possible. Thoughts of making a push to the playoffs can wait, because Cleveland's recent woes have reached a low point.
On a sunny day at Progressive Field, the Indians found themselves on the wrong side of history. Angels starter Ervin Santana completed his first career no-hitter, the first against Cleveland in nearly two decades, to send the Tribe reeling to a disheartening 3-1 loss in front of a stunned home audience.
"Santana, you know the story," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "No-hitter. He was tremendous."
It was a dream come true for Santana, but a nightmare in every way for the Indians, who are fighting to stay afloat in the battle for the American League Central crown. Cleveland squandered a sound effort from left-hander David Huff, and, beyond the glaring absence of hits, the laboring club did itself no favors with a season-high five errors.
Over the past seven games, the Indians (52-50) have scored just seven runs. With the loss to the Angels (57-48), the Tribe has lost six of its past seven contests and 11 of its past 16. Cleveland has also slipped to just two games over .500 for the first time since the team was 4-2 on April 7.
"Each team goes through lulls like this," Indians outfielder Travis Buck said. "Granted, it's kind of a stressful time for us, just because we're a couple games behind the Tigers, and now you've got the Trade Deadline coming up. You try to block all that out, but it's still in the back of your head."
Needless to say, Thursday's scheduled off-day is coming at a good time.
"I would encourage all of them to do what I'm doing tomorrow," Acta said. "Go out and play in the golf tournament -- the charity event for the team -- and to relax and come out the day after that."
Santana's feat represented the third no-hitter of 2011, following the gems twirled by Twins lefty Francisco Liriano (May 3 against the White Sox) and Tigers ace Justin Verlander (on May 7 against the Blue Jays). It marked the ninth no-hitter in Angels history and the 12th all-time against the Indians.
The Indians had not been no-hit since Jim Abbott of the Yankees silenced them on Sept. 4, 1993. The last time Cleveland was blanked in the hit column at home was on Sept. 2, 1990, when Toronto's Dave Stieb accomplished the feat. The last Angels pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Mike Witt, who tossed a perfect game against Texas in 1984, though Mark Langston and Witt combined on one in 1990.
"It's a dream come true, and I'm just enjoying it," Santana said.
Approached by reporters after the game, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera declined comment, saying only, "Not today."
It certainly was not Cleveland's day.
The afternoon belonged to Santana.
"Ervin has the ability to do what he did this afternoon," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Obviously, he's not going to do this every time. You're fortunate to do this once, and if you're fortunate enough to do it again, you're blessed.
"But he has that kind of arm, and it showed up on the field. Everything fell into place this afternoon."
The no-hitter was unique in that it included one run for Cleveland. In the first inning, leadoff man Ezequiel Carrera reached on an error by Los Angeles shortstop Erick Aybar, stole second base and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Santana then set down 22 Tribe hitters in a row before issuing an eighth-inning walk to Lonnie Chisenhall.
Those two blemishes -- Carrera in the first inning and Chisenhall in the eighth -- were all that kept Santana (6-8) from perfection. The right-hander stuck mainly with a mix of a hard fastballs and sharp sliders to pile up 10 strikeouts over his nine innings of work, which culminated in his first career win against Cleveland.
"He's the type of guy that has electric stuff," Buck said. "He throws all his pitches for strikes, has good bite on his breaking pitches. Guys like that are scary. Once they feel that all their pitches are good, it's tough to get a couple hits off them."
Santana stole the spotlight, but the Indians helped his cause with poor defense.
Huff (1-1) sidestepped the initial damage of a trio of errors made between the third and fourth innings. In the fifth, Peter Bourjos tripled off the lefty and then scored on a sacrifice fly from rookie Mike Trout. One frame later, a critical passed ball by catcher Carlos Santana gift-wrapped a 2-1 lead for the Angels.
With runners on the corners and two outs in the sixth, Santana lost his grip after springing from his crouch and trying to throw Howard Kendrick out at second on a stolen-base attempt. Santana fumbled the ball and kicked it up the first-base line, allowing Torii Huner to score easily from third base.
"I tried to throw to second base," Santana said. "It was bad, but it's OK. It's in the past. I dropped it and hit it just a little with my foot. Something happened during the transfer. It's OK. I'll forget about it and stay positive."
Two additional errors in the ninth inning helped L.A. run to a 3-1 lead.
"Today, it was just bad luck," said Huff, who turned in 5 2/3 admirable innings.
The errors were the least of Cleveland's problems, though.
"We couldn't get to Ervin Santana," Acta said.
The closest Cleveland came to a hit might have been in the sixth inning. Rookie Jason Kipnis led off and offered at the first pitch he saw, sending it up the middle toward center field. Kendrick made a diving stop and quickly threw to first base for the out, preserving the no-hitter.
"We knew he was throwing a no-hitter," Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta said. "Obviously, it's on the scoreboard. Guys know. Guys are aware."
After 24 outs had been recorded by Santana, the Indians called upon Buck to open the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter. Six pitches in, Buck stared at a 95-mph fastball over the outside corner for a called third strike. Carrera followed with a routine grounder to Kendrick for the frame's second out.
That brought Michael Brantley to the plate.
"You don't change your approach at all," Brantley said. "I was thinking, 'Get my job done. Get on base any way you can.' That was still an important run."
Brantley swung at an 0-1 fastball and sliced it toward the left-center-field gap. Bourjos tracked down the fly ball, which dropped into his glove for the final out. With history secured, Santana threw both arms high in the air before being swarmed by a mob of his teammates.
It was a sour addition to Cleveland's ongoing struggles at the plate.
"Regardless of how our lineup is doing," Acta said, "you can't take credit away from him. He was very good."