July 29, 2014

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Tribe notes: Hafner struggling after Game 1 homer

BOSTON — Travis Hafner is slumping again.
The Indians designated hitter, who struggled to an uncharacteristically low regular-season batting average (.266) but appeared to have found his stroke toward the end of the year, is back in a rut, hitting just .200 (7-for-35) in nine postseason games.
Hafner’s American League Championship Series began well enough — a home run in his first at-bat off Josh Beckett in Game 1 — but it’s been downhill from there, with the team’s top run producer the past three seasons going 2-for-18 with eight strikeouts since. He is hitless in his last 11 at-bats, striking out six times in his last eight plate appearances.
“We need him to get it going,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge. “He’s right there in the heart of our order. Sometimes he’ll outthink himself. He just needs to go up there and hit.
“I think right now he’s getting in his own way a little bit.”
Hafner, who hit 24 homers during the regular season, while reaching the 100-RBI plateau for the fourth straight year, looked out of sync in Game 5 at Jacobs Field on Thursday.
He hit into a double play to score Cleveland’s only run with runners on first and third in the opening inning before striking out twice and grounding out again for the final out of the eighth, Beckett’s last inning of work.
Wedge was asked Friday if he would consider moving Hafner down in the order.
“We wouldn’t tinker with that right now,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in him. Everybody has to remember that when it comes to the postseason, everything prior to today doesn’t mean anything.
“There’s only one thing that matters, and that’s (tonight’s) game. And Travis Hafner can come out there and impact that game like any other great hitter in major league baseball.”  

Old enemies

Beckett confirmed after Game 5 that when he shouted at Kenny Lofton as Lofton was running to first on a fly out in the fifth inning, he was reacting to the left fielder flipping his bat after he thought he walked on the previous pitch.
A similar incident played out when Beckett was pitching for the Marlins in 2005 and Lofton was playing for the Phillies. After walking, Lofton characteristically flipped his bat, the two had words and both benches emptied — the same thing that happened Friday night.
“I guess he’s been in the league 20 years and he can tell guys what to do,” Lofton said of the right-hander, a five-year veteran.
Beckett also didn’t appear pleased when he was asked about the Indians employing his former girlfriend, country singer Danielle Peck, to sing the national anthem and “God Bless America” on Friday.
“I don’t get paid to make those (expletive) decisions,” Beckett said in the postgame interview room. “She’s a friend of mine. Thanks for flying one of my friends to the game so she could watch it for free.”

Take a walk

Indians pitchers issued their fourth bases-loaded walk of the ALCS on Friday — Tom Mastny in the eighth inning — accounting for the most ever in a single playoff series, while tying the overall postseason record.
Cleveland pitchers have walked 21 batters in 46 ALCS innings — 35 in 83 postseason innings.

Roundin’ third

The 10 hits C.C. Sabathia allowed in Game 5 were the most he has surrendered since a regular-season start against Kansas City on July 14. His consecutive ALCS losses are his first since dropping back-to-back decisions to Boston and Minnesota on July 24 and 29, and just his third of the year.
Rain fell for much of the day in Boston, with the Red Sox holding an optional workout, while the Indians chose not to take the field.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.