Indians still trying to solve riddle of Miggy's bat

Indians still trying to solve riddle of Miggy's bat

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona said he has tried everything. He has tried having his pitchers work around Miguel Cabrera. He has tried instructing them to intentionally walk him. He has tried taking an aggressive approach to pitching to the Tigers slugger.

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Francona joked before Monday's 8-5 loss to Detroit that he has even gone as far as pointing his arms at Cabrera, while wiggling his fingers in an attempt to put a hex on the hitter as he walks to the plate.

"You know, try to put the little [malocchio] on him or the whammy or whatever," Francona said. "But, that doesn't work."

Cabrera went only 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and two walks for the Tigers, who are now 8-2 against the Tribe this season. One of those free passes came with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, pushing the go-ahead run across for the Tigers, who never looked back in the opener of this three-game set.

With his latest performance, Cabrera improved his average to .649 (24-for-37) against the Indians through 10 games this year. That marks the single-best average against one opponent in one year (minimum 30 at-bats), dating to at least 1914. Second on that list is Todd Helton, who hit .595 for the Rockies in games against the Expos in 2000.

The Indians are still searching for the right strategy for facing Miggy.

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On Monday night, Cleveland did not let Cabrera beat them on his own, but Victor Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes -- the next two batters behind the All-Star first baseman in the lineup -- went a combined 4-for-7 with five RBIs. After the bases-loaded walk to Cabrera in the fourth, Martinez delivered a two-run single. After Cabrera's base hit in the first, Cespedes came through with an RBI double.

"Those are pretty dangerous hitters," Francona said. "I know it's easier said than done, but that's why you really have to attack [Cabrera], because it feeds right into what they're doing if you don't."

Against all other opponents this season, Cabrera has turned in a .297/.410/.502 slash line. He has a .702 on-base percentage and a 1.108 slugging percentage this year against the Indians, who have walked him nine times, including four intentional passes.

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"Obviously, he's a good hitter," Indians starter Trevor Bauer said. "But, he's a hitter and I think against the rest of the league he hits .290, so it's not like he hits .750. I mean he does [that] against us, but you can clearly get him out, because the rest of the league does it."

Before Monday's game, Francona addressed the danger of leaning toward the concept of walking Cabrera most (or all) of the time.

"I guarantee you," Francona said, "if we just went into a series and said, 'We're walking Miggy every time,' they'd score more runs than if we sort of pick our spots. ... Say he has 12, 15 at-bats this series. If he's on base 15 times, they're going to score more runs. Now, we've tried to pick our spots, but if you look, Cespedes is hitting .300 with a lot of RBIs. Victor's now back. He's a very good hitter. J.D. Martinez hit three home runs [Sunday].

"So, sometimes you have to get good hitters out."

Francona was asked if Cabrera is the type of hitter who can spook an entire pitching staff.

"He spooks me," Francona replied. "I mean, he's certainly kind of had his way with us, and I hope that changes. I've tried everything."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.