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Scuffling offense catches up to Indians in G2

Club has previously compensated for postseason cold spell, but can't afford to continue trend
October 27, 2016

CLEVELAND -- Measured in decibels, perhaps Wednesday's highest-octane moment at Progressive Field occurred in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the World Series. Jason Kipnis shot a one-out, bases-empty double up the middle, where it skipped between two Cubs on its way to the right-center-field gap. The Cleveland faithful

CLEVELAND -- Measured in decibels, perhaps Wednesday's highest-octane moment at Progressive Field occurred in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the World Series. Jason Kipnis shot a one-out, bases-empty double up the middle, where it skipped between two Cubs on its way to the right-center-field gap. The Cleveland faithful roared and whooped and hollered, lifting signs and raising fists.
No matter that the Indians were already trailing by five runs at that point, well on their way to a 5-1 loss and a 1-1 Series tie. No matter that the Cubs were actively siphoning momentum from them.
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"I don't want anybody no-hitting me in my own backyard," Kipnis said. "It doesn't matter if it's the World Series or the regular season."
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For a time, it seemed as if Jake Arrieta might accomplish that feat, setting down the Indians with what Mike Napoli called an "effectively wild" approach. Arrieta's 5 1/3 no-hit innings were the deepest anyone has taken a no-hit bid in a World Series game since the Mets' Jerry Koosman made it through six innings in Game 2 in 1969.
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And while Kipnis' hit may have solved that problem, it did little to address Cleveland's greater concern: aside from historically light-hitting catcher Roberto Pérez's Game 1 outburst, the Indians have scored three runs over their first two World Series games. Since the start of the American League Championship Series, in which their pitching carried them, they have averaged 2.7 runs per game.
"I think you've seen us in these playoffs where we haven't hit so well and somehow have still found ways to win games," Kipnis said. "Tonight, the other team just did a good enough job of scoring more runs than we did, and it came back to haunt us without hitting."
There has been no singular culprit. Through two World Series contests, Carlos Santana is 0-for-6. Kipnis is 1-for-9. Lonnie Chisenhall is 1-for-6, and his replacement in the later innings of Game 2, Rajai Davis, is 1-for-7.

Overall, the Indians are batting .219, surviving until now thanks to razor-sharp pitching. But they know they cannot keep living on that knife's edge. Not against the Cubs, who have countered with nothing but elite arms so far this Series -- it was Arrieta, Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday, each at least as effective as the last.

"Whether they get a hit or not really doesn't affect the way you continue to approach that lineup, especially with a five-run lead," Arrieta said. "I wanted to stay aggressive and continue to allow these guys to put the ball in play on quality pitches in the bottom of the strike zone."

The Tribe did have its chances, with Kipnis scoring on a wild pitch in the sixth inning, and Jose Ramirez lifting a deep fly ball that died just shy of the warning track in the first. But Cleveland needs more than almost-got-'em threats and one-run rallies.

Napoli suggested continuing to grind out at-bats, as the Indians did in forcing Arrieta to throw 98 pitches over 5 2/3 innings. Francisco Lindor espoused small ball -- "get on base, move the guys over."

Kipnis offered an even simpler solution.
"We've just got to have better at-bats," he said. "We don't need to make it any more difficult or any more confusing than it is. See the ball up, swing at strikes, get guys on base. We just didn't do that tonight."

Anthony DiComo has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.