NEW YORK -- Indians general manager Chris Antonetti sees the same thing as everybody else right now. Antonetti has watched his club's offense go flat, and the team's grip in the American League Central loosen dramatically as a result.
Over the past three weeks, Cleveland's lineup has labored as a whole and the Tribe's seven-game lead over second-place Detroit has vanished in the process. Entering Sunday's game against the Yankees, the Indians and Tigers were tied atop the division standings.
"Offensively, we need to get more consistent," Antonetti said. "We need to get back to some of the things that made us successful early in the year. I still believe in the talent in the guys that are on the roster, and that in time they'll be able to play up to their ability."
Antonetti's faith stems from the fact that for most of April and in early May, Cleveland ranked at or near the top of the league in multiple offensive categories. The slide since then, however, has been significant. Once the AL leader in runs and run differential, the Tribe now ranks eighth and fifth, respectively, in those categories.
Dating back to May 23, when the Indians were 30-15, the club went 4-13 with an average of three runs per game, entering Sunday's game. Throughout that period, Cleveland hit .227 with a .635 OPS, scoring two runs or fewer in 11 of the 17 games with two shutouts.
Over the the Tribe's first 45 games, the team hit .265 with a .759 OPS. The Tribe also put up 5.1 runs per game on average and was only shut out twice. Cleveland scored two runs or fewer only 10 times over that span.
"It's the consistency of our at-bats from the top to the bottom of the lineup," Antonetti said. "We had everyone contributing, for the most part, in the first part of the year. It's tough when you have to rely on just a couple of guys to carry the burden offensively."
Antonetti not thinking about additions yet
NEW YORK -- For all their recent woes, the Indians remain a contender for a division crown. The question right now is whether they will look outside the organization for some assistance for a potential playoff push.
Over the next seven weeks, leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti will be evaluating the club's course of action. As things currently stand, there are simply too many teams in the hunt to have a clear gauge about which players are available.
"I think we'll have a better sense of that over the next few weeks," Antonetti said on Sunday. "With additional separation [in the standings], and as the trade conversations intensify, we'll be able to get a little bit better feel for that."
Entering Sunday's game in New York, there were 15 teams that boasted a record above .500. There were another seven within five games of the break-even mark. Considering the Tribe has lost 13 of its past 17 games, Antonetti also needs more time to evaluate his own team's chances.
"Ultimately, what matters is our competitive position," Antonetti said. "That's going to be one of the driving factors in determining what, if anything, that we do over the next couple of months. I'm confident in the group of guys that are here, that we'll begin to play better and play more like we did at the beginning of the season than we have over the last 20 games."
That is what the Indians -- without much money to spend and certainly reluctant to part with top prospects -- can only hope happens.
"We need the guys that are here," Antonetti said, "to continue to get back to the point of being productive and to play to their abilities. That's where it starts for us, because we're not in a position to go out and make wholesale changes."
Chisenhall, Kipnis making 'great strides'
NEW YORK -- The Indians showed they are willing to turn to their farm system for help last week by promoting infielder Cord Phelps to the big leagues. Cleveland might continue to look internally for assistance as the season wears on.
"There are certain guys down there that I think have the ability to impact us," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said on Sunday, "and, if we have a major need, to come up and help contribute in meaningful situations. A lot of that's also a function of opportunity and what our needs are up here."
The two players on the minds of most Tribe fans are third-base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall and second-base prospect Jason Kipnis. Both began the season at Triple-A Columbus with what Antonetti called "developmental goals," especially when it came to their defense.
Chisenall (originally a shortstop) and Kipnis (a converted outfielder) have both made progress in that regard.
"Both guys have made great strides defensively," Antonetti said. "Lonnie has continued to improve at third base. Jason, at second base, has actually done a very good job."
Antonetti noted that Chisenhall's primary area of development was consistency with his throws from the hot corner. Up the middle, Kipnis needed to work on turning double plays in a variety of ways. The Indians' GM said that the only way to do that was that they simply needed more game experience to hone such skills.
"With Lonnie and Jason both, it's position conversion," Antonetti said. "They're guys who don't have a lot of games and experience over there, and a lot of things you can't simulate until you're in a game."
In terms of their offensive development, Antonetti said that Kipnis has been ahead of Chisenhall up to this point this season. Through 59 games for Columbus, Kipnis was hitting .292 with seven home runs, 12 doubles and 37 RBIs. Chisenhall was batting .250 with five homers, 14 doubles and 30 RBIs through 60 games.
"Jason has certainly done everything we could've hoped, offensively," Antonetti said. "He's continued to put up quality at-bats. He's driven the ball for extra bases. He's done a good job of controlling the strike zone for the most part. He's gotten off to a very good start.
"Lonnie, it's been a little bit more of a challenge. He's had periods where he's gone on and been pretty consistent with his swing and with his approach, and there's other periods where he's struggled a little bit.
"All the attributes are there for Lonnie to be a very successful Major League hitter. He's just still a young player who's developing."
Talbot, Acta hope pitcher avoids penalties
NEW YORK -- Indians starter Mitch Talbot received a text message from his brother prior to Saturday's game against the Yankees.
The note read: "Try not to hit anyone tonight."
It was some friendly sibling ribbing, stemming from Talbot's May 31 outing in the Bronx last season. In that start, the Cleveland right-hander hit both Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter with pitches.
The message was also a bit of unfortunate foreshadowing. Talbot hit Rodriguez on the left leg with a pitch in the sixth inning of Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Yankees, and the pitcher was immediately ejected by home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna. The Indians are hoping Talbot avoids facing a fine or suspension.
"I don't think I'd be happy about that," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I didn't agree with it the first time, and I think they should have enough sense to know that that was uncalled for."
The pitch in question was an 88-mph two-seam fastball that tailed inside with New York holding a 2-0 lead. Talbot noted that he lost his footing slightly during his delivery due to the rainy conditions. Iassogna's quick hook came one day after the Indians and Yankees has a bench-clearing incident after another hit batsman.
Talbot insists his pitch was not intentional, and he hopes Major League Baseball sees things the same way.
"Hopefully I don't get fined," Talbot said. "[Iassogna] was the only person in the entire stadium who thought it was on purpose."
Cabrera notches career hit No. 2,000
NEW YORK -- Indians second baseman Orlando Cabrera joined an exclusive class of hitters during Sunday's 9-1 loss to the Yankees. Cabrera is now a member of the 2,000-hit club.
During the second inning, Cabrera ripped an 0-1 offering from New York right-hander Freddy Garcia to the left side of the infield. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was unable to corral the sharply-hit grounder, which deflected off his glove and bounced into left field for a single.
"In baseball," Cabrera said, "besides trying to hit the ball, you have to have luck, too."
Cabrera said he did not realize it was ruled a hit, and not an error, until he saw the ball being tossed back to the visiting dugout. With that base hit, the 36-year-old Cabrera became the 262nd player in baseball history to collect at least 2,000 hits in a career. He is the 17th active player to achieve the milestone.
Achieving that feat was admittedly on Cabrera's mind.
"I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't thinking about it," he said. "I really think I'm an honest guy. So I will not lie. I will not make up any story. Yeah, I was thinking about it a lot."
Cabrera's 2,000th hit came in the 1,913th game of his career, which has spanned 15 seasons and included stints with eight teams. Entering Sunday, Cabrera had hit .273 for his career during tours with the Expos, Angels, Twins, A's, Red Sox, White Sox, Reds and Indians.
"It means a lot," Cabrera said of the milestone. "I never started my career thinking, 'I'm going to get there,' or anything like that. I'm really, really happy that I'm still playing and was able to get to that number.
"If you look in the history of baseball, a lot of great hitters and guys that have won batting titles, unfortunately, they never got to play many years to get to that number. So to me, it's special."
Cleveland inked Cabrera to a one-year deal during Spring Training and handed him the Opening Day job at second base. The veteran infielder is hitting .242 with two home runs, eight doubles and 28 RBIs in 58 games this season for the Tribe.
Quote to note
"It's been a combination of things: us not playing our best baseball, and also facing some of the toughest opponents, too. That combination, I think, has probably contributed to our struggles over the last 20 games." --Indians general manager Chris Antonetti
Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner (on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique injury) took part in batting practice on Sunday. The sidelined DH is scheduled to do the same on Monday in New York. If Hafner feels fine after Monday's session, he will likely be begin a Minor League rehab assignment later in the week.
Indians outfielder Travis Buck took part in pregame drills on Sunday and hopes to be available to be in the lineup on Monday. Buck and his wife were passengers in a cab that was involved in a minor car accident on Friday afternoon. Buck and his wife, Summar, walked away dazed, but did not suffer any serious injuries. The outfielder had been dealing with some back and neck discomfort, along with headaches, due to a case of whiplash. Buck passed a number of concussion tests.
Indians right-hander Vinnie Pestano logged one inning in Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Yankees. It marked Pestano's first game appearance since June 1, due to some lower back tightness. The setup man is over the issue, which is good news for the Tribe. Pestano had a 1.64 ERA through 24 outings, entering Sunday.