CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – What many have assumed for long stretches of the 2017 season can now be taken as truth: the Indians are pressing.
With well-documented struggles in high leverage situations, and with runners in scoring position, the Indians put those struggles on full display on Wednesday. The Indians out-hit the Padres, 14-13, and had more extra-base hits than the Padres, 5-4, but the visitors outscored the Indians at home, 6-2.
When you turn in 14 hits, but only 2 runs, can there really be a whole lot of other answers?
“Maybe some guys possibly could be putting a little pressure on themselves or they want to be the one to break out of it and start getting those hits with runners in scoring position,” Bench Coach Brad Mills said. “So they kind of expand the zone, I think we saw that a little bit tonight, expanding the zone a little bit.”
It would be difficult to boil down the team’s issues to just pressing, especially seeing as they outhit the Padres with runners in scoring position Wednesday as well, going 4-for-15.
Francisco Lindor had two of those hits, both of which drove in a run, but Michael Brantley’s 5th inning single struck pitcher Luis Perdomo and stayed in the infield and Jose Ramirez was thrown out at home on Yan Gomes’ 8th inning single.
Even Lindor, who had success on a 3-for-5 night, agreed that the issue may lie in too much rather than too little.
“I guarantee we’re trying,” the All-Star shortstop said. “That might by why we’re not scoring. We might be trying a little too hard.
“We’re still in first place, but we’re not satisfied with how we’re doing right now. We just got to continue to compete, play the game hard and hope for the best.”
There lies the issue within the overarching issue.
Hitting with runners in scoring position has always been fluky, so all hitters can control is the quality of their at-bats. They can’t not try, but if you try too hard like Mills and Lindor have said, you swing at bad pitches.
The Indians have had the quality at-bats, just not the results.
Edwin Encarnacion worked a full count after a first inning Lindor double before striking out swinging on a ball in the zone. Roberto Perez did the same in the 2nd. The lone out Abraham Almonte came on a full-count slider he swung and missed on in the 8th.
Swinging and missing, whether in the zone or out of the zone, could be a byproduct of pressing, with somebody looking for that one hit that Mills referenced.
“All you gotta have is a little success,” Lindor said. “When you have a little bit of success, it gives you that confidence where you just trust yourself. Whether it’s a broken bat single or a rollover to second base and the guy scores, that makes you feel a little better.
As for hitters who actually put the ball in play outside of Lindor, the results went both ways. Encarnacion grounded into his 10th double play of the year with two on and two out in the 5th, and a chance to take the lead. Brandon Guyer lined a ball 94.9 mph into the glove of shortstop Erick Aybar in the 8th that had an 85% hit percentage according to Statcast.
Then there was Gomes, who actually put the team in a position to score had it not been for Hunter Renfroe’s seventh outfield assist of the year.
Again not one of the batted balls can be traced back to “pressing” at the plate, and many of them can be traced back to San Diego’s pitchers leading baseball with a 50.4% groundball rate.
Through 82 games of a 162-game season, things begin to stop looking fluky and start looking like a trend. When you are exponentially worse than all of your peers in a specific event, when does it become who you are?
Those questions will stick around, but all that seems to arise are more questions.
“We’ll be fine, trust me on that. We’ll be fine. We’re going to score some runs and we’re going to be successful,” Lindor added. “It’s just a matter of, when are we going to start doing it?”
Good question, Frankie.