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07/31/07 11:59 PM ET

Carmona, Indians fall short

Setback vs. Rangers ends first losing month of '07 season

CLEVELAND -- Eric Wedge likes to point out that the game of baseball "starts with the starting pitching."

But it doesn't end there, as Wedge and his Indians can painfully attest.

The Tribe has received sterling outings from Jake Westbrook, C.C. Sabathia and, now, Fausto Carmona over the last three games, with nothing to show for it. Troubles on the offensive and defensive ends have rendered those performances moot, as was the case in Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to the Rangers in front of 21,811 fans at Jacobs Field.

"The offense has got to do a much better job than it's doing," said Wedge, stating the obvious in a stretch that has seen the Indians muster just two runs or less in each of the six losses on this homestand. "We've got to have people step up."

On this punchless night, the Indians popped up more than they stepped up. They fed right into Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy's fly-ball-inducing tendencies, putting up just two hits over the game's first six innings, in which they were held scoreless.

What Wedge sees on the offensive side is a team feeding off a funk, hacking away at pitchers' pitches early in the count and making quick outs.

"Somebody's got to stop it," he said. "You don't make one quick out after another and keep going. That's what we've got going right now. Each individual needs to separate from what's going on around him and put up a good at-bat."

The dearth of good at-bats put added pressure on Carmona, who was looking to become the AL's first 14-game winner.

Early on, Carmona was up to the challenge. Continuing the dominance he displayed over the Rangers in Texas a week and a half earlier, he allowed just a pair of hits over the first four innings.

In the fifth, however, Carmona left a sinker up to Nelson Cruz, and it was promptly pounded to the second tier of trees beyond the center-field wall.

More trouble followed for Carmona in the sixth, when he walked leadoff man Ian Kinsler, gave up a base hit to Michael Young and hit Sammy Sosa with a pitch.

"My pitches were not working that inning," Carmona said through Luis Rivera, acting as an interpreter.

When Carmona finally induced the ground ball he was looking for, it was a scorcher sent third baseman Casey Blake's way. Blake misplayed the ball, and the error allowed two runs to score to make it 3-0.

"It looked like the ball came up a little bit on Casey," Wedge said. "When you're not scoring runs, one play like that can make the difference."

The Indians finally did score a run in the seventh, when Ryan Garko took McCarthy deep with a solo shot to the left-field bleachers. But they went down weakly and quietly against Rangers relievers Frank Francisco and C.J. Wilson.

"We're not swinging as well as we can right now," Garko said. "But no one is going to panic. You look at the whole season, and we'll be all right. We can't get caught up in one bad stretch."

The month of July, as a whole, can be chalked up as a pretty bad stretch, where the Tribe is concerned. With this loss, the club wrapped up a month in which it went 12-14 -- its first losing record in any month this season.

July's troubles have not been for lack of effort from Carmona, in particular. He finished off the month with a 5-1 record and 1.74 ERA in six starts, and the loss on this night did little to diminish the seven strong innings of work he turned in.

"My job is to keep the team close," Carmona said. "I feel I did that. I can't control what happens after that."

Little of what happened behind Carmona was very good on this night -- a pain Sabathia knows all too well. Both hurlers have seen their search for win No. 14 foiled by a Tribe offense that's scuffling and a defense that hasn't been particularly sharp.

"We need to get back ahead of things," Wedge said, "and control the baseball game."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.