Indians' offense stuck in familiar funk
Lineup ranked 13th in AL with .683 OPS in July
OAKLAND -- Michael Brantley flexed his arms in frustration, let out a quick shout and then tossed his bat away in disgust. The Indians left fielder has been one of the exceptions to Cleveland's offensive woes this season, but even Brantley is not immune from an occasional missed chance.
Brantley's boiling point came in the eighth inning of a 5-1 loss to the A's on Saturday, when he swung through a 92-mph fastball from Drew Pomeranz, striking out and stranding a pair of baserunners. It was one of only a handful of scoring chances on the night for a Cleveland club that has been coming up short in the batter's box too often.
In July, the Indians posted a .683 OPS, which ranked 13th in the American League. On the season, Cleveland has hit .226 with a .692 OPS with runners in scoring position and a jaw-dropping .128 with a .382 OPS with the bases loaded. Against Oakland, the chances were few, as the Tribe ended only 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position.
Three months are in the books. It is what comes next that matters most now.
"You can use August and September to win some ballgames," Indians utility man Lonnie Chisenhall said. "I know we're not statistically out of it, so you win as many as you can, finish the season with a good taste in your mouth. That's kind of what you want to do."
That's really all the Indians can do.
Runs have been at a premium for most of the year -- especially across June and July -- and the Indians just parted ways with two veteran hitters by trading David Murphy (Angels) and Brandon Moss (Cardinals). That has opened the door for players like Chisenhall (a former third baseman now trying his hand as an outfielder) and Jerry Sands (a career journeyman who has flashed power potential) to get more at-bats down the stretch.
Following his Trade Deadline deals, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said offensive improvement would have to come from the inside for the remainder of this season. At the end of the year, Cleveland will then evaluate its needs and head into the winter in search of ways to breathe life into its lineup.
Indians manager Terry Francona does not want to look too far ahead, though.
"I don't ever want to get lost that every time we play a game, we need to try to win," Francona said. "Certainly, moving forward, we do want to evaluate who we think can help us win going forward. That's important. But, every game, you play to win and the evaluation can come later. We never want to lose sight of that."
During Saturday's defeat, Cleveland took on rookie right-hander Aaron Brooks, who made his A's debut after being acquired in the trade that sent Ben Zobrist to Kansas City. Brooks handcuffed the run-starved Tribe over 7 1/3 innings, limiting the Indians to one run on a Chisenhall home run to center field in the fifth inning. Chisenhall now has four hits in his past two games.
"When he gets balls he can handle, he has that ability," Francona said. "He can be a good hitter."