CLEVELAND — There were two ways to look at the Indians’ situation as the team entered Saturday night’s game with the Yankees.
They are either fortunate the Tigers have played worse than they have, or they have blown a golden opportunity to distance themselves from the defending American League champions in the Central Division race.
“I think it’s important to take away from the negative of where we could be, and look at where we are,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, whose Indians entered the second game of the series with New York in first place by 1½ games, but at 13-15 since the All-Star break, with the Tigers at 11-18 during the same period. “If we start thinking about what could have been, then we’re sure as (heck) not going to take care of today and tomorrow.”
It is no secret what has played the major part in holding the Indians back in the second half. It’s been an anemic offense that has mirrored the struggles of its top run producer, Travis Hafner.
“Is there a domino effect? Without a doubt, when you’re talking about your middle hitters and the guys at the bottom,” Wedge said. “What we’ve gotten away from is sticking with (our game plan). Once we get back to that, it’s going to be a big part of us getting back on track offensively.”
Until then, Cleveland’s hitters can do nothing more than play through the slump.
“You have to keep plugging away,” said first baseman Ryan Garko. “Guys are putting up good at-bats, but we expect more out of ourselves than this.”
Hafner (mild hamstring strain, knee inflammation) was out of the lineup for the third straight game Saturday, but was potentially available to pinch hit.
Hafner has yet to take batting practice, but did swing the bat Friday and Saturday.
Wedge was asked if he still expected his designated hitter to miss 3-5 days or if the injuries could result in a trip to the disabled list.
“Normally, I’d stay away from a question like that, but I am pretty confident it’s a 3-5 day thing,” he said.
The fame game
The Indians held a pregame ceremony to induct four players — Andre Thornton, Charles Nagy and the late Jim Bagby Sr. and Mike Garcia — into the team’s Hall of Fame.
Video tributes of all four players were shown on the Jacobs Field videotron, with Thornton and Nagy walking onto the field from the Indians bullpen to applause from the sellout crowd.
Wedge was not aware that Cavaliers star LeBron James was part of the crowd for the series opener with New York on Friday night. He was also not aware that James was a Yankees fan.
When he was informed James has been seen wearing a Yanks hat, he said, “We’d prefer the Indians hat.”
Despite saying he had spent his last day in an Indians uniform when he was demoted, left-hander Jason Stanford accepted an assignment with Triple-A Buffalo. Stanford went 1-1 with a 4.78 ERA in eight appearances (two starts) for Cleveland.
• Bisons outfielder Brian Barton hit his first homer since being promoted from Double-A Akron, going 2-for-4 in a 10-1 victory over Ottawa on Friday. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004, Barton hit .314 with nine homers and 59 RBIs in 106 games for Akron.
The Indians broke their string of first-inning futility Saturday, scoring a run in the opening inning for the first time in 24 games.
• Cleveland signed its last pick from the June draft, catcher Doug Pickens, a 50th-round selection out of Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield, Mich.
• Windell D. Middlebrooks, the actor who plays the delivery driver on the Miller High Life commercials, was in attendance as a guest of the Indians.
Contact Chris Assenheimer
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