CLEVELAND — The Indians entered Friday night riding a six-game losing streak and holding down last place in the Central Division — 5½ games behind first-place Detroit. But no one is folding up the teepees on the season after a disappointing first month.
“I believe in that group in there,” manager Terry Francona said of his players. “I believe we will find a way to dig ourselves out of what we’ve dug. We’re just going to have to be strong enough in the near-future to look up at the scoreboard — our record isn’t what we want it to be, so you have to be strong enough to look at it and think, ‘OK, we can do this.’ But you have to do it the right way. The right way is by doing it today.”
Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti met with the media prior to the series opener with the White Sox on Friday and offered a vote of confidence to his scuffling squad. The Indians returned home after being swept in a six-game West Coast road trip against the Giants and Angels.
“I believe in this group of guys, I believe in the coaching staff,” Antonetti said. “Teams are going to go through stretches throughout the course of the season where they don’t play very well. We happen to have come off a stretch of a really tough road trip where we lost six games in a row. But prior to that we were at home coming off three out of four (wins) against a very good Kansas City team. There are going to be ebbs and flows to the season. Hopefully we can turn it around quickly.”
The Indians have been alarmingly bad defensively, committing an American League-leading 26 errors over their first 28 games. Catcher Yan Gomes (seven errors) and first baseman Nick Swisher (four) were the biggest culprits.
“I know we’re going to be a better defensive team than we’ve been so far,” Antonetti said. “In a short period of time, one month, when it’s tough to get on the field and get into a regular routine. Maybe that explains some of the inconsistencies, but I know we’ll be better moving forward.
“As a team, we need to play better defensively. There have been times where Swish has made some great plays over at first base and other times where he’s had some miscues. But we all know he’s a very good and capable defender at first base. We saw that firsthand last year and I think on balance he’ll be better moving forward.”
The Indians weren’t able to hit their way past the defensive miscues, thanks in large part to a team-wide struggle, offensively. Cleveland ranked 13th in the AL in batting average (.232) and 12th in runs (106) through Thursday.
“Again, a lack of consistency,” Antonetti said of the offensive issues. “We’ve had a handful of guys that have yet to perform to their capabilities, but it’s a group of guys that we believe in that have had success in the past. I’m confident that when we look back, we’ll look at this as a tough stretch, rather than anything that was indicative of how they performed the whole course of the season.”
The Indians didn’t do a whole lot well over the first month, but they’re taking solace in the fact that there are five more left before the regular season is complete.
“It’s really hard to pinpoint any one particular issue. I think just team-wide we haven’t played up to our abilities,” Antonetti said. “There is obviously urgency. We want to try to turn things around as quickly as possible. Hopefully that starts tonight. But regardless of what the immediate results are, we need to play better as a team, really in all facets. I’m confident we will do that.”