Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 4/27/12

What is it about Progressive Field in 2012 that the Indians offense doesn’t like? After another loss yesterday afternoon, 4-2 to the Kansas City Royals, its as if they are allergic to their home park. I don’t know if it was the poor weather, or reality setting in, but we are back to being frustrated with the production and the lack of clutch hitting.

The contrasts are astounding. At home, the Indians are hitting .186 (52-279) and averaging 3.5 per game while hitting .150 (9-60) with runners in scoring position. On the road, they are hitting a whopping .381 (89-317) and averaging six runs per game while hitting .309 (30-97) with runners in scoring position.

Defensively, the play has also left a lot to be desired. A play here or there can always turn a game. Two days ago, it was the ground ball that neither Jason Kipnis nor Asdrubal Cabrera got that opened the flood gates. Yesterday’s “game of inches” play came with two outs and two on in the top of the fifth. With Josh Tomlin teetering, Jeff Francouer lifted a fly ball into shallow left field. Shelley Duncan, not known for his glove, charged hard and dove for the ball. He came up just short, allowing a key run to score. Manager Manny Acta lifted Tomlin for Dan Wheeler, who promptly gave up an RBI single to Brayan Pena. If Duncan comes down with that ball, the entire complexion of the game changes.

Meanwhile, noted pitching legend Luis Mendoza (sarcasm font) shut down the Indians offense to the tune of one run on two hits over the first five innings and looked great until he loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth. Manager Ned Yost went to one of his four lefties, Tim Collins, to face Travis Hafner. Hafner hit a sac fly, bringing the Indians to within two runs, but once again, they couldn’t get that big knock to tie things up or even take the lead. It was the signature of this entire series.

The Royals gave them plenty of chances to come back in this one, but it just never came to fruition. In the eighth they had two on and two out for Jack Hannahan, but he flied out. In the ninth, they put two on with two out again, but Cabrera flied to center to end the game against closer Jonathan Broxton (who makes Bob Wickman look fit).

Over the last three games, the Indians scored eight runs, were 3-21 with runners in scoring position and left 28 men on base. That just is not going to get it done. Not to mention, its not as if they faced Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana (Oops, those three come this weekend). It was Jonathan Sanchez, Luke Hochevar and Luis Mendoza in your home stadium.

The usual suspects are struggling. Duncan (13 K’s in his last 24 ABs with just three hits) and Casey Kotchman (1-25) have really started to hurt the team. As much as I like Shelley, he’s best as a platoon guy who isn’t playing every single day. Johnny Damon will be perfect to spell him. I’m not sure what they can do about Kotchman, but Acta will stick with him, especially because of his glove. But now you’ve got an injured Shin-Soo Choo, which forces Acta to use Aaron Cunningham every day. Carlos Santana has just one extra base hit, no home runs, and one RBIs in his last seven games. With Choo out, it is imperative that he, along with Cabrera, and Hafner, do their parts as runs producers.

Without Choo, Duncan is hitting fifth. That tells you all you need to know about the depth of the lineup. It is really on everyone to pick up the slack. They rode the momentum of that 7-2 west coast road swing back home and have come back down to earth offensively.

This weekend will be no picnic. They now have to face the aforementioned Weaver, Haren, and Santana possibly without their number three hitter. Weaver is one of the best pitchers in the game, Haren is no slouch himself, and while Santana is off to a slow start, this is a guy who no-hit the Indians at Progressive Field last season (yes, I was there).

The weather is supposed to be spotty as well.

Acta will send Justin Masterson (0-2, 6.65) out Friday night to face Weaver (3-0, 2.43 ERA). This is a big start for Masterson from a confidence standpoint. He has really struggled in his last three outings. Jeanmar Gomez (1-0, 1.93 ERA), who was spectacular in Spring Training and in his start over the weekend in Oakland, will go on Saturday afternoon against Haren (0-1, 4.07 ERA). Sunday’s finale will see Derek Lowe (3-1, 3.00 ERA) face off with Santana (0-4, 7.23 ERA)

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta) 

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