Offensive struggles don't bother Tribe, yet

Offensive struggles don't bother Tribe, yet

CLEVELAND -- If there are any worries about the Indians' offense within the team's clubhouse, it was hard to tell on Saturday night. Shortstop Francisco Lindor even flashed a smile while discussing the struggles that have overtaken the lineup for the past two weeks.

"Everybody here knows what we're capable of," Lindor said after the Tribe's 4-1 loss to the Twins at Progressive Field. "It's just a matter of putting hits together."

Hits have been hard to come by of late for the Indians, who were blanked by Ervin Santana on Friday and handcuffed by Jose Berrios on Saturday. In nine of the past 11 games, Cleveland has scored three runs or fewer. Five games in that stretch have featured one or zero runs.

There has been plenty of praise directed at opposing pitchers in the wake of losses through the season's first six weeks, but the tone was different in the aftermath of this defeat. Indians manager Terry Francona did pay Berrios a compliment for his work against the Tribe in his season debut, but he was quick to note the offensive missteps that played a role.

"We're certainly not doing what we want to do," Francona said. "We just talk so much about trying to get the line moving and keep it moving. We're not really getting it moving to start. We're getting in that mode where everyone's trying to do more, when we just need baserunners and to go first-to-third. When guys start popping up, they're trying to do more."

With their latest showing, the Indians are now batting .237/.319/.385 collectively with 144 runs scored (4.1 runs per game). The team's 95 Weighted Runs Created Plus indicates that the offense has been 5 percent below league average to this point. The issues have been especially glaring with runners in scoring position. Cleveland has hit .209 as a team in such situations.

The problems have been widespread, too.

Lindor and Jose Ramirez, who carried the offense in April, have hit .231 and .233, respectively, in their past 20 games. Jason Kipnis has hit at a .155 clip in 19 games since coming off the disabled list. Carlos Santana, who blossomed as a leadoff man last year, has hit .227 out of the gate. Edwin Encarnacion -- signed to the largest free-agent contract in franchise history over the winter -- is batting .213 with five homers and 11 RBIs.

"I'm never going to feel frustration," Encarnacion said. "I know what I can do. It's a long season. I'm going to keep my head up and keep working and working hard."

Encarnacion did, however, display some frustration in the ninth inning, when it appeared he drew a one-out walk against Twins closer Brandon Kintzler, with Michael Brantley on first. Encarnacion took a step toward first base, but home-plate umpire CB Bucknor called the outside pitch a strike. The Indians slugger spun around and threw his arms in the air.

"I just want to try to get on base no matter what," Encarnacion said. "That way, we can have the tying run at the plate, if I get on first base. But, it didn't happen."

When it rains, it pours.

Francona remains confident his team can right the ship.

"Everybody's a little frustrated -- it's stating the obvious," said the manager. "Sometimes it's hard to believe, but I do, I really do. I know these guys are going to be OK. It's not been the funnest 10 days. The best way I know to turn it around is to remember all the things we believe in."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. 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.