CLEVELAND -- There are a lot of unanswered questions about the Rangers, but Sammy Sosa is not one of them. He might have been an unknown in Spring Training because he missed all of 2006, and had a miserable 2005 season with the Baltimore Orioles, but the Rangers are finding out plenty about Sosa right now. They found out he belongs in the lineup every day. They would be in deep trouble if he wasn't. They may be anyway.
Sosa hit two more home runs on Thursday, and set a Major League record by going deep in his 44th big-league park, but that still couldn't save the Rangers. Instead, they found themselves down by four runs after two innings, and went on to lose to the Cleveland Indians, 9-4, at Jacobs Field. Sosa's sixth-inning home run off of Indians starter Paul Byrd was his first ever at Jacobs Field, and the 44th different park of his career. That's one more than Ken Griffey Jr. and Fred McGriff. The only two active parks where Sosa doesn't have a home run are Washington's R.F.K. Stadium, and the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis. "On one side, it's nice to have the record," Sosa said. "On the other side, it would have been better to win the game. I would have enjoyed it more. What we're doing right now is not enough. We're fighting, though, that's what I like about this team." Sosa also hit an eighth-inning home run off Tom Mastny, giving him six on the season, and 594 for his career. It's also the 69th time in his career that he has hit multiple home runs in a game. Babe Ruth holds that record with 72 multi-homer games, and Barry Bonds is second with 70. "What you're seeing is what I saw in January," Washington said. "What you're seeing with Sosa, I never doubted. This is a guy who has knowledge of what's going on. He's a student of the game. He's got a pedigree. He's going to the Hall of Fame. I never doubted it." Still, all of Sosa's power, and all of his history, couldn't keep the Rangers from being swept by the Indians or going down to their ninth loss in their 13 games. They are also 2-9 on the road this year. What the Rangers really needed more than a record-breaking home run was a big hit early in the game. The Rangers had the bases loaded in the first inning with nobody out and Mark Teixeira and Sosa coming to the plate. They did not score. Instead, Teixeira lined out to shallow left, and Shin Soo Choo threw out Kenny Lofton trying to score. Sosa then grounded out to second base to end the inning. That was just the start, and the Rangers finished just 2-for-16 on the afternoon with runners in scoring position. "It's just a matter of time," Washington said. "We're getting into situations we want to be in, but we have to take advantage of it. You know these guys are better than what we're showing." Lofton had the defining afternoon for the Rangers. He led off the first, third and fifth inning. Twice, he reached third with nobody out and once with one out. The Rangers could not get him home. "That's the way the game goes," Lofton said. "You can't put your finger on it. I don't get stressed out about it. I know the game and the game has peaks and valleys. It's going to happen. We all know it's going to happen." The Indians didn't waste anything early against Rangers starter Kameron Loe. They jumped on him for three runs in the first, including a two-run home run by Trot Nixon, and two more in the second. That left the Rangers trailing 5-1, and this time they couldn't catch up. "I didn't get ahead of hitters as well as my last start," said Loe, who gave up seven runs in 5 1/3 innings. "I threw a couple of pitches that I shouldn't have, like the curveball to Nixon. My sinker was working pretty well today. Other than that, I didn't throw that many bad pitches. After I settled in, I felt pretty good. But giving up five [runs] in the first two innings is tough to come back from." The Rangers did creep back to within 5-3 when Sosa hit his record-breaking home run off Byrd. But the Indians struck back with three in the bottom of the inning. Both Scott Feldman and Ron Mahay issued a walk with the bases loaded to force home two runs. The Rangers now have a three-game losing streak as they head toward Toronto. "We just have to keep fighting," Sosa said. "Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. You just have to go out and do it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.