ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Lance Berkman was actually more relaxed with the Texas Rangers on the verge of squandering a great scoring chance in a tie game.
Berkman hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning after an odd double play erased the potential go-ahead run at third base, and the Rangers beat Cleveland 6-3 Monday night to hand the Indians their eighth straight loss.
The Rangers had runners at first and third with no outs when David Murphy hit a grounder that the Indians turned into two outs by throwing behind Jurickson Profar at third.
Berkman suddenly needed a hit instead of a simple sacrifice fly to put Texas ahead. He responded with a shot down the left-field line for his first homer since May 24 and a 5-3 lead over the Indians, who have a 12-game road losing streak that’s their longest since a 16-game skid carried over from 2009 into the second away game of 2010.
“A lot of times you feel much more relaxed and you have a better at-bat when you need a base hit as opposed to when you just need a fly ball,” said Berkman, who was 2 for 25 with eight strikeouts coming in. “I wasn’t thinking, we’ve just blown this. I was thinking, just try to get a good pitch to hit and try to hit it hard.”
Robbie Ross (3-1) got the win after striking out the side following a leadoff walk in the seventh. Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 20th save.
Scott Kazmir (3-4) ended up with the loss even though he was in the dugout when the switch-hitting Berkman homered off left-hander Nick Hagadone.
Carlos Santana had a three-run double in the third inning, but the Indians didn’t get another hit and remained a season-high 5½ games behind Detroit just 18 days after they were in first place in the AL Central.
“Work hard and grind because there isn’t a magic potion,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “There might be, but you can go to jail. We’re going to find out a lot about ourselves right now.”
Jeff Baker had a tying homer for Texas in the fourth, his ninth of the season and fourth in the past six games. After Berkman’s home run, Nelson Cruz added an RBI double in the seventh.
“He’s too good not to find his swing,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Berkman. “It would be nice if he got going and we could start doing things we know we’re capable of doing. For now we’ve just got to keep fighting, and he’s one of them who’s been fighting and tonight he got us a big blow.”
Kazmir fell behind 1-0 in the second on an RBI single by Craig Gentry but avoided further trouble by striking out Elvis Andrus with the bases loaded after third baseman Mark Reynolds misplayed a grounder with two outs.
Josh Lindblom, making his second career start with Texas this season after 101 relief appearances in the big leagues, retired the final 10 batters he faced after Santana’s three-run double put Cleveland up 3-1 in the third.
Lindblom, filling in for injured starter Alexi Ogando, allowed five hits while striking out six and walking one. Four of his six innings were perfect.
The Indians had just two baserunners over the last six innings — Jason Giambi on a walk and Jason Kipnis on an error by Andrus at shortstop.
“There’s nothing I can do to change the double that he hit, so I’ve got to worry about the next pitch,” said Lindblom, who was knocked out in the fifth inning of his other start after a flurry of Oakland doubles. “You make the next pitch and the next pitch and the next thing you know you’re in the fifth or sixth inning.”
The Rangers tied the score quickly in the fourth. A.J. Pierzynski led off with his second single and scored four pitches later on Baker’s homer down the left-field line.
Kazmir allowed eight hits and four runs with two walks and five strikeouts in six innings.
“It’s just little things that cost us the game,” Kazmir said. “It could be a pitch, it could be defensively, offensively. It seems like it’s something so small that’s costing us, especially the last couple of games.”
Mike Aviles started Cleveland’s three-run third by beating Andrus’ throw on a grounder up the middle. Kipnis singled and Nick Swisher walked with one out, and after Michael Brantley popped out, Santana sent a ball to the gap in right-center, just out of Cruz’s reach.
The defensive play of the game ended up as a single for Berkman after Reynolds dove into foul territory to stop a one-hop grounder and threw to first. Berkman would have been out, but Santana came off the bag early to throw back to Reynolds, who tagged out Murphy trying to go from first to third on the play. Berkman was awarded a hit.
NOTES: The Indians acquired INF John McDonald from Pittsburgh for a player to be named or cash. The 38-year-old McDonald spent his first six seasons with Cleveland starting in 1999. To make room for him, the Indians moved RHP Brett Myers (right elbow) to the 60-day DL. … Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler has resumed baseball activities and hopes to return during an 11-game homestand that ends June 20. He’s been out since May 18 with a rib injury. … Andrus has at least one hit in all 33 career games against the Indians.