OAKLAND -- Paradoxically, what's pleased Indians manager Manny Acta most about Michael Brantley in the No. 5 hole is that Brantley hasn't become a No. 5 hitter."We knew he wasn't going to change his swing," Acta said. "He's a very smart kid, very fundamentally sound, mature beyond his age. He knows not only how to handle himself but he has baseball knowledge. He comes from a baseball background. He's a coach's dream." Brantley, the son of former Major Leaguer Mickey Brantley, was thrust into the No. 5 spot because of injuries to middle-of-the-order hitters like Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore. Brantley is not a prototypical No. 5 hitter because he doesn't hit home runs, but someone has to hit there, so Acta reasoned that Brantley could handle the role without trying to make himself a power hitter. Brantley is hitting .294 with a .343 on-base percentage. He's been one of the Indians' most consistent offensive players all season. "He's done a tremendous job in the middle of of our order, but I don't see Michael being a middle-of-the-order hitter," Acta said. Acta said, ideally, Brantley would hit at the top or the bottom of an order. Acta added that Brantley is not simply some slap hitter, though. He pointed out that he has 34 doubles. "People always relate power to home runs, but if you can hit 40 doubles in a season, it's not bad," Acta said. "He's not doing it by chopping the ball over the third baseman's head. He's hitting the ball in the gap."
Kipnis knows struggles are part of process
OAKLAND -- Although there is nothing good about the numbers Jason Kipnis has posted lately, he's still showing the Indians positives.Manager Manny Acta said he's been impressed with how the Indians second baseman has handled himself during a second-half slump. "That's what makes him a good player," Acta said. "He's still going hard. Unfortunately, everybody has to go through this. Let's not forget Mike Trout struggled last year up here." Trout, the leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year, hit .220 in 40 games in the Majors last year. Kipnis is having the opposite experience. He hit .272 with a .507 slugging percentage in his first look at the Majors last year, and he started off strong in 2012, but since the All-Star break, he's hit .183. "It's part of the game," said Kipnis, who had a day off on Sunday. "It's not an easy game. I'm learning that the hard way. The normal adjustments in the past aren't working this time. It's not like guys are throwing pitches I haven't seen before. They aren't making huge adjustments. They are still throwing the ball over the plate. I just have to find a way to make better contact. I'm trying to find any way to first base, and it's not happening right now." Kipnis said he's tried different things, most recently a change in the position of his hands. So far, nothing has clicked, but he's trying to remain confident. "Confidence comes from [going through] some of this every now and then," he said. "As long as you keep positive and tell yourself you can do this, you've done it before, that's all you can do. It's just a struggle right now. I've got to get through it."
Tribe staying positive despite slump
OAKLAND -- A 4-17 stretch may have hurt the Indians' position in the standings, but it hasn't dampened the attitude in the clubhouse."I don't think anyone has packed it in," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "I think we have a good amount of character. People are trying to win ballgames. We're not going to pack it up and look to get to the end of the season. Guys are still playing hard." The Indians have spent 40 days in first place this season, and as recently as the All-Star break they were just three games out. But they stumbled out of the break and lost 11 in a row in late July and early August. And they took a four-game losing streak in Sunday's game against the A's. "You just keep playing," third baseman Jack Hannahan said. "It's our job. We keep playing and showing up expecting to win. Just because we've gone young, it's no excuse to lose. You've got to come ready to play every day, and expect to win." Brent Lillibridge has an interesting perspective. He began the season with the White Sox, who were in first place. Then he was traded to a Red Sox team that has underachieved. Then he came to the Indians in another trade, just before the 11-game losing streak. "The guys here are great," Lillibridge said. "It's been frustrating because we've been losing, but we've been handling it really well. That makes you want to win more because you know how good it's going to be when we do start winning a little bit. Hopefully we can catch a little streak and play some great baseball." Manager Manny Acta said it's no secret what the Indians need to turn things around. "I think we need to pitch better," he said. "You can't win if you don't pitch better. It's that simple. That's the name of the game. Look across the field [at the A's]. What do you think got them where they are? We haven't played to our potential overall. That's all. Nothing inspires or sparks people more than winning games. And you win games by pitching."
Jeff Fletcher is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.