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Francona: Time for Tribe to find consistency

Still dealing with neck spasms, Kipnis out of lineup
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- With the Indians dropping three of the first five games on their six-game homestand, the ballclub entered Thursday's series finale against the Dodgers at 31-31, good for second in the American League Central behind the Twins.

While Indians manager Terry Francona has denied the notion that the team is suffering from a World Series hangover after it went seven games with the champion Cubs in the Fall Classic, Cleveland has not lived up to preseason expectations. After the Tribe took two of three from the White Sox to begin the homestand, it dropped two straight to the Dodgers, putting it at .500 with 100 games left in the season entering play on Thursday.

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CLEVELAND -- With the Indians dropping three of the first five games on their six-game homestand, the ballclub entered Thursday's series finale against the Dodgers at 31-31, good for second in the American League Central behind the Twins.

While Indians manager Terry Francona has denied the notion that the team is suffering from a World Series hangover after it went seven games with the champion Cubs in the Fall Classic, Cleveland has not lived up to preseason expectations. After the Tribe took two of three from the White Sox to begin the homestand, it dropped two straight to the Dodgers, putting it at .500 with 100 games left in the season entering play on Thursday.

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"Our record is [31-31], that's what matters," Francona said after Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Dodgers. "Whether it was a week ago, I don't get too carried away with that, but we've been inconsistent in a lot of areas. And at the moment, we're a .500 team. So where do we go from here? Fortunately, we have a lot of baseball in front of us, but we need to get moving."

The Indians came into the season as favorites to win the division and as a strong candidate to make it back to the World Series. The offseason signing of slugger Edwin Encarnacion only added fuel to that narrative's flame, but the team has struggled to remain consistent through its first 62 games.

"I don't know that I would call it frustration, because I don't know that there's any need to press or anything," reliever Andrew Miller said. "But I think we think we're a better team than this. ... I think, big picture, yeah, we think we're better than 31-31 -- but nobody really cares what we think. We have to go out there and win more games."

Going into Thursday, the Indians' offense ranked 10th in the AL in team batting average (.245), 13th in runs scored (275) and last in hits (506). In addition, the Tribe is 13th in the league in starter's ERA (4.81), as the team's starters had allowed 187 runs -- tied for third most in the AL.

"I'd be lying to say that we weren't frustrated with the way we've played, and obviously our record shows that," right-hander Corey Kluber said. "But nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We don't have a choice but to continue to try to play better and to win more games."

Despite the bumpy first few months, closer Cody Allen is confident that the team will be able to turn its season around.

"We have 100 baseball games left," Allen said. "Are we happy with how we've played so far? No. But we do know there's 100 games left to play, and we just have to show up and play as hard as we can for every single one of them. And then at the end of the season, we will see where we stand."

Kipnis out of lineup; Brantley on paternity list

After he missed Wednesday's game with neck spasms, second baseman Jason Kipnis was out of the lineup again on Thursday. Erik Gonzalez took his place at second base and batted ninth.

Additionally, left fielder Michael Brantley was not in the starting lineup for Thursday's game, as he was away from the team because his wife, Melissa, is having a baby. Brantley was placed on the paternity list and will not travel with the team for its weekend series with the Twins.

As a result of Kipnis and Brantley being out of the batting order, shortstop Francisco Lindor batted leadoff and third baseman Jose Ramirez hit third. Francona also opted to move designated hitter Encarnacion back into the cleanup spot, and he pushed Carlos Santana back to the five-hole.

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.

Cleveland Indians