ARLINGTON -- The Indians have struggled all season, make that three seasons, against Texas. They had a chance to break through in the final meeting of 2011 on Thursday.
The Indians loaded the bases with one out in the top of the second, and had Rangers starter Alexi Ogando's pitch count soaring. Texas' bullpen was active with Indians rookie third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall ahead in the count. A few ill-advised swings later, order was restored to this one-sided series.
Chisenhall chased two pitches out of the zone for a strikeout, and catcher Lou Marson followed that by doing the same thing. The Rangers' potent bats then came alive for a 7-4 victory and a sweep of the three-game series.
The Indians (72-75) fell to three games under .500 for the first time all season. They had been two games under only twice, at 0-2 to begin the season and after Wednesday night. On the verge of being mathematically eliminated in the American League Central race, the Indians stayed alive for another day as Detroit, with a magic number of one after the Indians' loss, fell to the A's, 6-1.
The Indians have been unable to figure out the defending AL champion Rangers. Cleveland dropped nine of 10 games against Texas this season, including getting swept at home in four games in early June. The Indians lost the rubber match of a three-game series, 7-5, in early August. In the final three-game series, Texas outscored the Tribe, 26-9.
In fact, the Indians just can't figure out the Rangers period. Cleveland is 4-21 against Texas going back to the start of the 2009 season.
"They overmatched us," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Other than that series we had over here, when we had a chance to win the series, we were in every game, they just kind of outplayed us the whole time."
Just like Wednesday night, the Indians were in a close game with the Rangers until the middle innings. On Wednesday, it was an eight-run fourth inning that did in the Tribe. This time, things crumbled in the bottom of the fifth, when the Rangers turned a 1-0 lead into 6-0.
The Indians should have been out in front going into the middle innings. Ogando threw 39 pitches in the top of the second, and was struggling to find the strike zone. Carlos Santana walked to start the inning and Travis Hafner followed with a single to right. After a fielder's choice by Grady Sizemore, Shelley Duncan walked to set up the potential big inning.
But Chisenhall and Marson let Ogando off the hook. Chisenhall missed two straight fastballs after getting up in the count, 3-1. Marson actually had an OK at-bat, taking two sliders for called strikes and then working the count full. But he swung at a fastball out of the strike zone to end the inning.
"He had a good fastball and live arm, but I thought we helped him out," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "We were battling. We had some good at-bats. We got his pitch count up, and they had Scott Feldman up in the bullpen. We had some good swings and some bad ones."
The wasted opportunity allowed the hottest hitting team in baseball to get cranked up -- the Rangers entered the game with at least a dozen hits in seven straight games. They only had nine hits Thursday night, but they made them count.
Indians starter Fausto Carmona gave up the lead in the bottom of the third, when No. 9 hitter Endy Chavez singled, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Marson. After Carmona struck out Ian Kinsler, he allowed an RBI hit to Elvis Andrus for a 1-0 Rangers lead.
The fifth inning went much worse. Carmona caught a tough break when Chavez led off the inning by beating Santana to first base for an infield hit. Carmona then walked Kinsler, and Andrus' sacrifice bunt set up the inning for the Rangers. Acta called for an intentional walk of Josh Hamilton -- giving one of the American League's toughest batters and top hitters with runners in scoring position, Michael Young, a chance to bat with the bases loaded.
Young laced a line drive past left fielder Duncan, and the ball rolled all the way to the wall, allowing the Rangers to clear the bases for a 4-0 lead. Adrian Beltre then followed with a two-run home run into the home bullpen in right-center field for a 6-0 Rangers lead. The blast extended Beltre's hit streak to 19 games.
Carmona is 6-15 with a 5.26 ERA as the Cleveland ace.
"Carmona was overthrowing everything," Acta said. "He walked five guys. He was throwing it side to side. He didn't have good sink on his fastball."
The Indians did get on the scoreboard in the seventh inning on Santana's leadoff double, a Sizemore single and a bloop hit by Duncan to make it 6-1.
Hamilton answered that run with his 22nd home run in the bottom of the seventh to make it 7-1. The Indians got that run back in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Ezequiel Carrera, who entered the game in the second as a replacement to the injured Shin-Soo Choo, to make it 7-2. Choo, making his return to the lineup after an 18-day absence with a left oblique strain, exited in the second after aggravating his left rib cage. Acta said after the game that Choo is done for the season.
The Indians scored two more runs in the ninth off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz on Marson's double, and got the tying run on deck. But Jason Donald and Kipnis struck out to end the game.
"No one on this team enjoys losing," Kipnis said. "And it's not going to start now. We're going to keep competing and playing hard."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.