Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Francona: Too early to worry about facing lefties

One game does not define a season, but it can introduce an element that bears watching over the course of the summer.
On Monday night, the Indians were dealt a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Astros, who watched left-hander Dallas Keuchel seemingly have his way with the Tribe's lineup for seven innings. After Keuchel's exit, Houston handed the ball to lefty Tony Sipp, and Cleveland was again silenced to set up the Astros' first victory of the season.
Facing lefties has been a problem in the past, and it is an area the Indians want to improve in this year.
"I can see why you would ask [about] that, but we're one game into the season," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We're going to have to work at it. If I was [an opposing] team, I'd throw a lefty, too."
Francona's lineup leans left more than most. His first three batters -- Michael BournJason Kipnis and Michael Brantley -- all hit from the left side, and the batting order will often include lefties Brandon MossLonnie Chisenhalland David Murphy. Switch-hitters Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez help provide some balance, along with righties Yan GomesRyan Raburn andMike Aviles.
More often that not, though, Francona will have at least five pure lefties in his lineup.
"That's been our lineup kind of every year," Gomes said. "I think that's something to see during the year."
Keuchel, who posted a 2.93 ERA and 133 ERA+ last season, is in the upper echelon of baseball's southpaw starters, but Cleveland's recent history against lefties overall is not strong.
The Indians' ranked 14th in the American League in both slugging percentage (.360) and OPS (.672) against left-handers last season with virtually the same lineup. Due to the way Cleveland's lineup is constructed, the club had the second-most plate appearances (1,954) against lefties last year. Over the 2012-14 seasons, only Seattle saw lefties more than Cleveland (6,059).
"We've got to perform better against everybody," said Raburn, who grounded out three times during Keuchel's seven innings of three-hit ball. "It's just one of those games. I think we were all just a little amped up. We didn't hit the ball particularly well, as a whole. We'll get that one out of the way, put that in the past and we'll come back out here Wednesday and try to put together some better at-bats."

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