CLEVELAND (AP) – Everybody is pitching in for the surging Texas Rangers.
C.J. Wilson and two relievers combined for the Rangers’ sixth shutout in their last 20 games, and Texas beat the Indians 2-0 on Sunday for its first four-game sweep in Cleveland in nearly 33 years.
“That’s three shutouts (in five games) on the trip against pretty good teams,” manager Ron Washington said.
Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus homered as AL West-leading Texas wrapped a 6-1 trip to Tampa Bay and Cleveland, and won for the eighth time in nine games overall.
The slumping Indians still lead the AL Central despite dropping nine of 12.
“These guys came in and outplayed us,” manager Manny Acta said. “They have a very good team and showed us why they’re the American League champs. They’re talented up and down. They’re very deep, too. The title is probably going to have to run through Texas again.”
Texas’ last four-game road sweep was at Minnesota in April 1999.
“What, are we going to suddenly become road warriors?” Washington said. “I want to be a warrior period, on the road or at home. We’re really playing good baseball.”
Texas’ only other four-game sweep in Cleveland came in August 1978 — two years before Wilson (6-3) was born.
David Murphy had three hits for Texas, which outscored the Indians 24-6 in the series.
Cleveland has lost six in a row at home since opening the season 19-4 at Progressive Field. The Indians have only two runs in their last 29 innings. The consecutive shutouts by Texas pitchers were the first by the same opposing team in Cleveland since Detroit did it May 8-9, 2009.
“They have been terrific,” Andrus said of the Rangers’ pitching staff. “They throw strikes and make it easier. The offense doesn’t have to do too much.”
Andrus tied reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton by hitting his third homer in the third inning off Mitch Talbot (2-2). Moreland’s eighth homer put the Rangers ahead in the second.
“I thought of that right away,” said Andrus, who had no homers in 148 games a year ago. “I told Josh, ‘Watch out, I’m with you.”‘
Hamilton recently returned after missing 36 games with a broken right arm. He got the day off after homering in each of the previous two games.
Wilson gave up three hits over 7 2-3 innings. He struck out seven, walked two, and said he learned a few tips on facing the Indians from teammates.
“We sit around and talk pitching every day,” Wilson said. “We bounce ideas off each other. Today, I used all my weapons — a back-door cutter, fastballs up and in, changed speed on breaking stuff.”
Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta said Wilson was plenty tough.
“He almost had four pitches working for him,” LaPorta said. “He was mixing it in and out, up and down. He just did a good job.”
Wilson would have liked to finish for his first career shutout, but went to interim pitching coach Andy Hawkins after seven innings and said he was beginning to feel a little discomfort.
“I didn’t see the need to be a hero,” Wilson said. “I tweaked my (right) ankle landing in a hole on the mound. I wasn’t hurt. I wasn’t tired, but I was getting a little out of whack.
“Still, I thought I’d get through the eighth.”
With two outs and LaPorta on first, Washington called on left-hander Darren Oliver to face Michael Brantley, who had drawn both walks issued by Wilson and got Cleveland’s first hit, a leadoff single in the fourth. Oliver struck out Brantley to end the eighth and Neftali Feliz finished the three-hitter for his 13th save in 16 chances.
Talbot gave up two runs and eight hits in six-plus innings. He left after issuing two walks to open the seventh. Joe Smith got out of the jam when Adrian Beltre hit into an inning-ending double play.
“Mitch did a fantastic job,” Acta said. “But we’re struggling offensively.”
The Rangers twice turned double plays on Indians veteran Orlando Cabrera, who was moved into the second spot in Cleveland’s batting order. Acta put Asdrubal Cabrera at No. 3, moving Shin-Soo Choo, in a 4-for-25 slide, down three spots to sixth.
“There’s only so many combinations of lineups you can do when you have only a couple of guys swinging the bat well,” Acta said. “You can’t hit Brantley and Asdrubal in every spot.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)