Loe, Rangers fall to Indians in opener
Lofton makes great catch, but early deficit dooms Texas
ARLINGTON -- Kenny Lofton made another terrific catch in center field on Thursday, racing to the wall and making a running, over-the-shoulder catch of Jhonny Peralta's towering drive in the seventh inning.Lofton has had quite a few highlight-worthy plays this season, but on Thursday he also had to play the role of victim on an outstanding defensive play that ultimately proved to be the pivotal moment of the night. The gem, made by Indians second baseman Josh Barfield, kept the Rangers from completely overcoming a four-run deficit and scoring a knockout of All-Star left-hander C.C. Sabathia. Instead, the Rangers had their comeback cut short and the Indians went on to a 7-5 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers are 3-4 since the All-Star break. "I thought we swung the bats well off Sabathia," outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "You look up at the scoreboard and we had eight or nine hits off him, and we should have more. We hit the ball on the nose a lot tonight." Rangers starter Kameron Loe is 0-2 with an 11.41 ERA in two starts since the All-Star break after giving up six runs in six innings. Just like Kevin Millwood on Wednesday afternoon in Oakland, Loe put the Rangers in an early hole by giving up four runs in the second inning. "It's definitely hard to recover from a four-run inning early," Loe said. "It seems like a lot of my losses have come because of one bad inning. If I can eliminate that, then I can get this turned around. But I'm not helping myself walking a batter or giving up the big hit." The Rangers never recovered on Wednesday when Millwood allowed the four runs. They stormed right back against Sabathia, getting three in the bottom of the second. Gerald Laird hit a two-run home run and Ramon Vazquez's double plus a throwing error by Sabathia brought home another run. The Rangers, trailing 4-3, then loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth when Wilkerson walked and Laird and Vazquez reached on bunt hits. That brought up rookie Travis Metcalf, who was about to get his first big lesson the wind dynamics of the park in Arlington. Metcalf launched a high drive to deep center but not far enough to the right. Balls that are hit to the right of center can get caught in the jet stream and fly out, but balls hit to the left of center have a chance to get knocked down by the incoming south wind. That's what happened and center fielder Grady Sizemore caught it in front of the wall. "I hit it pretty good," Metcalf said. "I thought it had a chance to drift out." Wilkerson still scored on the play but Laird inexplicably stayed at second, setting up the play of the night. Lofton hit a smash up the middle and Barfield dove to his right, making a terrific backhanded stop to start an inning-ending double play. "The ground is hard here," Barfield said. "I knew I had a chance to dive and get there. It was just a matter of whether it would take a hop over my glove or not." It was the play of the game. "It was one of those plays where you look back on and wonder what could have happened," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "All you can do is put the ball in play. You can't guide it. We attacked Sabathia pretty good, we just didn't get a little luck or deliver the big hit." Loe also couldn't keep the game tied as Sizemore led off the Indians fifth with a home run. They added another run on a triple by Casey Blake and a potential inning-ending double play that the Rangers couldn't turn. Sabathia, on the other hand, was able to give the Indians a couple of scoreless innings, but with a lot of help from his defense. The sixth inning was more frustration for the Rangers. Marlon Byrd led off the inning with a single and Wilkerson followed with a sizzling line drive to left where Ben Francisco made a terrific diving catch. "We got some hits but we just couldn't get over the hump tonight," Laird said. "I thought Kenny Lofton was going to knock one through. He hit three smashing balls [right at a defender] but that's baseball, sometimes thing go your ways and sometimes they don't. It's a tough one to swallow, but if you look around we played an all right game."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.