ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - The Cleveland Indians head into the final 16 games of the regular season out of the playoff race and pointing toward next season.
At least they expect to have outfielder Shin-Soo Choo back in the lineup for Thursday night's series finale against the Texas Rangers.
The Indians lost for the seventh time in nine games when they were routed by the Texas Rangers 9-1 on Wednesday night.
Choo has been on the 15-day DL since Sept. 1 with a left oblique strain. He's been limited by injuries to 84 games after a 22-homer, 90-RBI season in 2010.
Choo, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore have all missed long stretches this season because of injuries, hampering the Indians' efforts to catch the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.
``It's been a challenge not having him and Grady and Travis,' manager Manny Acta said. ``It's a credit to our pitching staff because they kept us afloat most of the season. But we'll continue to have in the back of our head what would have happened.'
The pitching hasn't been there for the Indians the last two nights as Texas outscored Cleveland, 19-5. Texas had an eight-run fourth on Wednesday night capped by Josh Hamilton's third career grand slam.
Rangers starter Derek Holland (14-5) took care of the rest with seven effective innings.
``When you pitch in the mid-90s and pitch inside like he does, you have a chance to succeed,' Acta said.
Indians rookie starter David Huff (2-5) allowed eight runs - although only three were earned due to a fielding error in the fourth by third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall on Ian Kinsler's two-out grounder - and seven hits in four innings.
Huff's only other appearance against the Rangers came on April 15 this season, and it was much better. He tossed his only career complete game, a four-hitter in a 3-2 victory in Cleveland.
``Both times, I tried to be aggressive,' Huff said. ``Last time I was consistent hitting my spot with the fastball. This time, not so much. I left some pitches up and over the middle and they definitely took advantage.'
The Rangers are 10-1 against the Indians over the last two seasons.
``That's what a team that was in the World Series last year looks like, a team that will probably win their division,' Acta said. ``We have some catching up to do.'
Chisenhall's homer accounted for his team's only run.
Cleveland's Shelley Duncan made two leaping catches at the wall in left field in the first inning to rob Elvis Andrus and Hamilton of extra-base hits. Then in the second inning, he made a similar catch in the same area to deny Michael Young extra bases.
``Weird, to say the least,' Acta said of three standout catches in a short span by a player not known for his defense. ``For three balls to go in the same spot in the first four outs, you're never done seeing new things in baseball. He made good plays on those balls.'
But in the fourth, Duncan was unable to flag down Young's double into the left field corner that scored Hamilton, who was on first with a leadoff walk.
One out later, Mike Napoli hit a two-run homer, a 420-foot two-run drive that landed on the grass hitting background in center field. Andrus' infield single knocked in the fourth run of the inning. Hamilton followed with his grand slam on Huff's 1-2 fastball to complete the eight-run outburst.
Huff said the pitch to Hamilton ``was supposed to be a fastball down and away and I left it over the middle belt high. He doesn't miss very many like that. You don't keep the ball down, you suffer.'
NOTES: The Rangers will start RHP Alexi Ogando (12-8) in Thursday night's series finale against Cleveland's Fausto Carmona (6-14). ... Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco had reconstructive surgery to repair a ligament in his right elbow. Recovery time is estimated at 12 to 18 months.
The Associated Press News Service
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