October 1, 2014

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Getting back to business

Indians return home seeking answers for offensive struggles

CLEVELAND — The Indians are finished with interleague play and are back at home for 23 of their next 33 games.
Manager Eric Wedge hopes the combination provides the perfect tonic for the offensive woes that have plagued his team for much of the month of June.
“I think it’s natural that you’re going to go through (bad) stretches throughout the course of the season,” said Wedge, whose Indians entered Monday batting just .256 over their last 21 games, while scoring three runs or less in 10 of them. “When you’re going through a stretch like this, the negative is always going to show up more. That’s the way it works. A week from now or a month from now, we could be talking the exact opposite.
“We’re seeing signs that guys are working their way towards better days. It’s great that we’re back home and beyond interleague play.”
Wedge, a recent critic of interleague play, thinks it has played a part in his team’s struggles at the plate, with the bulk of Cleveland’s June swoon coming against National League opponents. The Indians hit just .202 (19-for-94), while scoring six runs in three games (two losses) against the woeful Nationals over the weekend.
“We all stunk this weekend,” Casey Blake told reporters on Sunday. “That’s just the way it is. We’ve got a long way to go.”
The Indians are one of the few teams in the big leagues to experience high numbers in both the strikeout and walk departments. They entered Monday ranked second in the American League behind Tampa Bay with 554 strikeouts and third behind Boston and Oakland with 286 free passes.
“I’ll take that,” Wedge said. “We’re going to push starting pitchers and we’re going to get on base. But it’s finishing off at-bats and finishing innings off, that’s the difference between scoring runs and not scoring runs.
“One thing we’ve done a good job of is finding different ways to win. We don’t necessarily have to be great in one area, but we have to be solid in all areas.”
If the Indians emerge from their offensive funk, it will most likely come at home, where they play the bulk of their games in July — 14 of 18 to finish the month. 
“We’ve spent a lot of time on the road and we’ve had some tough travel,” Wedge said. “(The home stretch) is something guys are looking forward to and something we need.”
Scoreboard watching
The defending AL champion Tigers have reclaimed the top spot in the Central Division with the All-Star break approaching, but Wedge hopes his players aren’t checking the standings just yet.
“It’s so early,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go and I think our guys are mature enough to realize that. The focus has to remain on us.”
Sizemore stuff
Grady Sizemore has mirrored his team’s strange walk-to-strikeout-ratio, seeing more pitches this year but still striking out at a high rate. He entered Monday hitting .282 with 44 walks and 80 strikeouts in 74 games, owning an on-base percentage of .395.
“He’s a guy that likes to create energy, and right along with that, comes aggressiveness,” Wedge said. “He’s Grady Sizemore, but he’s also a younger player that’s trying to get better.”
Minor details
A trio of Single-A Lake County pitchers — Carlton Smith, Austin Creps and Luis Perdomo — combined for the first no-hitter in franchise history Sunday in a 2-0 victory over DelMarva. Smith, the younger brother of Cleveland’s first-round draft pick in 2000, Corey Smith, started and went seven innings, allowing just a walk while striking out four.
l Triple-A Buffalo’s Adam Miller returned to the mound Monday, pitching a scoreless inning with one strikeout against Norfolk. Miller, who the Indians are considering adding to their bullpen, had been on the disabled list since May 12 with a strained flexor tendon in his middle finger. To clear room for him, the Bisons placed reliever Matt Miller on the injured list with more right forearm issues.
Roundin’ third
This is the seventh consecutive season that Monday’s starter C.C. Sabathia has posted 10 or more wins, the first Indians pitcher to accomplish as much since Hall of Famer Early Wynn and Mike Garcia did it in nine straight seasons from 1949-57. Sabathia is the first Cleveland pitcher to record his 10th win before or on the 71st game of the year since Charles Nagy did it in 1996 — the same season that Nagy started for the American League in the All-Star Game.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.