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Must C Catches: Duncan makes three great grabs

ARLINGTON -- The Indians remained tied for second place in the American League Central even after a 9-1 defeat in Texas on Wednesday night. However, they drifted another notch below .500.

The Rangers exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, half of them coming on Josh Hamilton's towering grand slam, as the Indians dropped two games below the .500 mark for the first time since early April.

While Chicago's 6-5 loss to Detroit kept Cleveland in second place, the Indians' 72-74 record matches their low point of the season, when they lost the first two games of the year to the White Sox.

The Indians are on the verge of being officially eliminated in the AL Central race -- a loss Thursday coupled with a Detroit win in Oakland will do it. But Indians manager Manny Acta said after Wednesday's eighth loss in nine games to the Rangers this season that there is still plenty for his ballclub to play for in these remaining 16 games.

"Every team has different goals," Acta said. "Our goal was to win the division. If not, then it is second place. If not that, then it is to finish above .500. We still have to go out there and get it done."

The Indians have to stay in games first to have a shot at getting back to .500. For the second night in a row, the Rangers blitzed them with an offense that has at least a dozen hits in seven straight games, the first time a Major League team has done that since 2007.

The bottom of the fourth started innocently enough for Indians starter David Huff. He had dodged damage in the first three innings, even though the Rangers had several loud outs, most notably three fly balls to the wall that ended up in Shelley Duncan's glove in left field.

But Huff walked Hamilton on five pitches to start the fourth. Michael Young followed with a double that gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Huff got Adrian Beltre to fly out to left, but Mike Napoli crushed a changeup to left-center field for a two-run home run and a 3-0 lead.

Huff recorded the second out on a liner by David Murphy, but three singles and an error later, he was down 4-0 on an infield hit by Elvis Andrus. That brought Hamilton back up, and he hammered a fastball that was supposed to be down and away, but instead drifted belt high over the middle of the plate. Hamilton lifted it over the left-field fence for a grand slam and an 8-0 Rangers lead.

"That's what happens when you load the bases," Acta said. "There's a reason for that. I can't explain it. Maybe it's having the wrong guy at the plate."

Huff was only charged with three earned runs in four innings. He lost his third straight decision, and while he pitched OK in his previous two starts against Kansas City and the White Sox, he admitted this outing was subpar.

"I left too many pitches over the middle," said Huff, whose ERA is still a respectable 3.40. "A guy like Hamilton doesn't miss many mistakes."

Before the fateful fourth, Duncan provided some spectacular defense over the first two innings. He had three straight putouts -- robbing Andrus and Hamilton for the last two outs of the first inning and vexing Young for the first out in the second -- on brilliant leaping catches in the same spot against the out-of-town scoreboard in left field. The final two had him crashing into the wall and holding onto the ball.

"It was weird to say the least," Acta said. "Three catches in the same place with the same jump. He made some good catches."

The Indians picked up their only run off Rangers starter Derek Holland on a home run by Lonnie Chisenhall to start the fifth inning, his seventh of the season.

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