Tribe working through offensive struggles

With strong rotation, bats could be key to postseason

Tribe working through offensive struggles

CINCINNATI -- A bolt of lightning lit up the night sky beyond Great American Ball Park's center field in the sixth inning on Friday night. With Carlos Santana standing in the batter's box for the Indians, overwhelming thunder followed, rattling the stadium as the Cincinnati crowd roared with delight.

That was the only power surge that arrived with Cleveland batting on this night.

In a 6-1 loss to the Reds in the opener of this three-game set, the Tribe's lineup went mostly quiet once again, opening the second half with a whimper. A rough outing from starter Trevor Bauer (five runs in four innings) did the Indians no favors, but the bats' inability to mount much against Reds righty Mike Leake loomed large in this loss.

"We've just got to get the hits at the right time," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "I see the guys every day. They work hard. They've been working hard. We've been taking practice and doing it the right way. The way we take the game, we're taking it the right way. It's just a matter of hitting at the right time."

Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes combined for three doubles, but that was hardly enough for Cleveland, which has been searching for offensive improvement all year. Sticking with one of the worrisome trends of the first half, the Indians went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position against Cincinnati. The Tribe has hit .226 with a .677 OPS (22nd in the Majors) with RISP this season.

Within the latest showing was a sixth-inning groundout from Santana that delivered the Indians' lone run.

Lindor scores on grounder

Indians manager Terry Francona was not about to read too much into the first game of the second half.

"It's one game," Francona said.

Francona firmly believes that Gomes will continue to show more life at the plate, and the manager is trusting that players with track records such as Brandon Moss and Santana have the ability to turn things around down the stretch. With one of the most overpowering rotations in baseball, the onus appears to be on the offense for righting the season for Cleveland (42-47).

"I think we have hitters that have shown they can do it," Francona said. "Gomer's going to drive in more than 10 [runs]. Santana's going to do more. That's how I feel. Now, we have to go do it. I said it before the game ... and I haven't changed my opinion. I don't think we did a real good job tonight, but I haven't changed my opinion."

Moss, who went 0-for-4 with two outs coming with runners in scoring position, said before the game that it is natural for struggling hitters to put too much pressure on themselves.

"You're going to press," Moss said. "And you're going to try until you have success, and you're going to pore over things and try to find a rhyme or reason why until you have success. ... Everybody says, 'Concentrate on the process, concentrate on this and that,' but at the end of the day, this is baseball, and it's about results. That's all it's about."

The results were not there against Leake, who spun six innings and limited the damage of the seven baserunners he encountered along the way.

The Indians know they need to correct that trend, and do so soon.

"There's going to be days like that," Lindor said. "We're trying to eliminate those days."

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.