Martinez Hurt In 8-5 Loss To Twins

The bad news keeps mounting for the Indians, who fell to Minnesota 8-5 and lost catcher Victor Martinez, too. Martinez left with a strained right elbow and is scheduled for an MRI exam on Thursday. The switch-hitter, hobbled all season by a strained left hamstring, hurt his elbow while batting in the first inning. The Tribe only hopes he doesn't join a long list of key players to be sidelined.

"Victor got hurt on a swing in the first inning," Indians manager Eric Wedge told reporters -- then revealed that Martinez has experienced elbow soreness for some time now in addition to his hobbled hamstring.

"He winced when it happened," Wedge said. "It's something that's been bothering him on and off all year. It must have been one of those swings that bit him a little more than usual."

Perhaps that explains why Martinez, a career .300 hitter who led Cleveland a year ago with 25 home runs and 114 RBI has been in a six-week funk at the plate. He has only 21 RBI and no homers in 198 at-bats this season -- the longest homerless drought of his career. He's batting .278 overall, but only .216 (25-for-116) since April 30.

Cleveland already is without right-hander Jake Westbrook, who is scheduled to have season-ending Tommy John surgery on his strained elbow on Thursday.

Right-hander Fausto Carmona, a 19-game winner a year ago, has been out since May 24 with a strained left hip. Travis Hafner, who averaged 33 homers and 111 RBI for three seasons before falling off last year, is on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.

Before the game, general manager Mark Shapiro expressed confidence that the club could still climb back into contention despite the injuries and unforeseen poor offensive play thus far.

"Some things have happened that we didn't expect, some disappointing play, though injuries are always part of the equation," Shapiro said. "It makes us appreciate last year while at the same time trying to fight hard and believe in what can happen this year and next."

Shapiro said he doesn't think the first-place Chicago White Sox are going to run away and hide from the rest of the teams in the AL Central, but that the Indians must start playing better to stay in contention. Cleveland started play Wednesday with a 30-35 record, 7 1/2 games behind the White Sox.

"I think it is still possible," Shapiro said. "Nobody in the division is going to run away, but we're too far behind to worry about somebody coming back to us. We have to move closer to them first."

Shapiro admits he's not quite sure what to make of the ballclub. The only consistent thing about the team thus far has been its inconsistency.

"There is a moment before every game starts when I think we're going to take off and go on a roll," he said. "Other times I see all the things that would make it very difficult to do that."

Even if the hitting miraculously comes around -- and it has showed signs of resurgence lately -- Shapiro is concerned about the Indians' shaky relief pitching.

"It's tough to win with this bullpen as it is now," Shapiro said. "Well, we can win, but it would be tough to be a championship team."

Cleveland relievers have compiled a 5-12 record and 4.68 ERA with 10 blown saves in 21 chances.

It was starter Paul Byrd (3-6, 4.89 ERA) who was roughed up Wednesday, however. The right-hander gave up six runs (five earned) over only three innings, leaving with a 6-1 deficit.

Kelly Shoppach, who replaced Martinez, hit his second homer to make it 6-2. And in the seventh, Grady Sizemore hit a three-run shot, his 13th, to get the Tribe within 6-5.

Scott Elarton worked three scoreless innings and Rick Bauer and Rafael Betancourt one scoreless apiece to give Cleveland a chance to win.

But Joe Borowski yielded two runs in the ninth to make it a little easier for Twins closer Joe Nathan to nail down his 17th save.

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