CLEVELAND — Despite his offensive struggles over the first two games of the Division Series and Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel on the mound in Game 3, manager Terry Francona stuck with left-handed hitting Jason Kipnis in center field Monday.
The statistics said Kipnis’ potential replacements, Greg Allen or Rajai Davis, wouldn’t fare much better. Davis is 0-for-20 in his career off Keuchel and Allen produced only a .448 OPS off lefties during the regular season, while Kipnis was at .646.
“Kip’s faced this guy a bunch,” Francona said of Kipnis, who went hitless in the first two games of the series striking out five times in six at-bats, but entered Monday owning a lifetime .292 (7-for-24) against Keuchel. “I’d like to not get too right-handed against this guy. I think we wanna kinda go middle of the road.
“To me, it would have just been change for the sake of change and that doesn’t help.”
Facing elimination, Francona did tinker with his lineup, replacing Melky Cabrera with Brandon Guyer in right field and moving Edwin Encarnacion to first base, with Yandy Diaz replacing Yonder Alonso in the batting order at designated hitter.
Tip of the cap
Francona gave much of the credit for Cleveland’s offensive struggles over the first two games to Houston’s strong-armed starting pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
The duo limited the Indians to three runs on six hits, striking out a combined 19 batters.
“I mean, they are two really talented pitchers,” Francona said, when asked if his hitters could have made adjustments. “They were on their game and I mean you can always say, ‘I wish we would have done this,’ but I mean, they were pretty overwhelming. At the time you’re competing, you don’t ever think that, because Frankie (Lindor) hit a home run (in Game 2). But when you look back, they were really good.”
Center fielder Leonys Martin wasn’t with the Indians during the Division Series as he recuperates from a life-threatening illness that ended his season shortly after being acquired at the trade deadline. But he offered encouragement on social media Monday, posting a picture of himself in an Indians jersey on Twitter and tweeting, “Let’s do this today guys, one at (a) time #RallyTogether #letsgotribe #Indians.”
“He’s not really comfortable with being here, but he’s been in communication with everybody and I think that’s best for his sake,” Francona said.
Francona said Martin, who is under control through 2019, was doing well health-wise and he expects him to be ready for spring training in March.
“He’s healing so fast that I think it’s surprising the doctors, like how quickly his heart has come back,” Francona said.
Browns coach Hue Jackson opened a conference call Monday by wishing the Indians well in Game 3.
“We’re all pulling for them,” Jackson told reporters. “Rally together. Let’s get the Indians a win today.”
- The Indians entered Monday with a 56-52 postseason record all-time, the fifth-best mark in the American League since 1901 and the ninth-highest winning percentage (.519) in the majors.
- Cleveland is made its 10th appearance in the ALDS, which is the third-most in the AL behind New York (21) and Boston (13).
- Former Indians slugger Travis Hafner threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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