By Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports columnist
ATLANTA: These would seem to be desperate times. In the first two games of the three-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, the Indians were 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
Going into Thursday’s series finale, they were hitting .228 in August, last in the American League and 28th in the majors. It is by far their worst month of the season, after batting .265 in April, .257 in May, .254 in June and .258 in July.
But don’t expect Tribe manager Terry Francona to make sweeping lineup changes. Even rearranging the batting order seems out of the question now that he’s moved catcher Carlos Santana into the cleanup spot, replacing Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera had replaced Nick Swisher.
“I’ve seen that and I don’t believe in that. I think that’s disrespectful to the players,” Francona said, when the issue of “jumbling” the lineup was raised. “You always want to have a reason for where you hit somebody. I want them to know that I do think about it and I don’t take it lightly where they hit.
“That’s like a player wearing his stirrups differently because he’s not hitting. It’s probably not affecting his swing.”
Asked the reason for the August swoon, Francona cited the loss of Ryan Raburn, placed on the disabled list Wednesday with inflammation in his left heel. Going into Thursday as the Tribe’s third-leading hitter with a .272 average, Raburn has played in only 10 games in August. He’s also hit 15 home runs this season, including four in 26 at-bats this month.
But Francona also mentioned players cooling off who were “real hot.” And there are plenty of swoons to which he can point.
Going into Thursday, Jason Kipnis was hitting .248 since the All-Star break, compared to .301 before. Michael Bourn was batting .224 and .290, respectively, Cabrera .213 and .255, Santana .240 and .275. Cabrera was hitting .212 in August, Bourn .216, Santana .224, Michael Brantley .226 and Swisher .232 (but .278 in the previous seven days).
Francona also credits some of the Tribe’s problems at the plate to opponents’ scouting and strategy.
“The last two nights right-handed they were not going to let [Santana] beat them,” Francona said. “They were going to pitch to [Mike] Aviles the first night and they were going to pitch to Cabrera last night and take their chances. We didn’t get a big hit.”
While fans — and even pitcher Justin Masterson — hope that everyone will start clicking at the same time, Francona doesn’t share that dream.
“I don’t know if any team ever has everything clicking all at once,” he said. “The object is to find a way to win. We have some guys with good track records that we hope get real hot.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.