Travis Hafner has provided a big boost to the Cleveland Indians' lineup since returning from the disabled list a week ago. For the next nine games, however, the designated hitter won't be making nearly the same impact.
A visit with the San Francisco Giants begins a nine-game trip to NL parks for the Indians, who could be hurting offensively as Hafner is limited to pinch-hitting duties.
Cleveland (40-33) scored an AL-low 85 runs in the 28 games Hafner missed from mid-May to mid-June and hit a major league-worst .220 - 51 points lower than when the slugger was healthy.
The Indians have averaged nearly five runs a game since he returned, and Hafner has driven in seven runs in just 17 at_bats. His lone hit Wednesday against Colorado wound up making the difference, a two-run sixth-inning homer that propelled Cleveland to a 4-3 win.
"He's at his peak right now," manager Manny Acta said. "He's so locked in at the plate. It's just sad we are not going to be able to see him out there for nine days. Very sad.'
Hafner hasn't played the field since 2007, and the Indians' interleague road struggles have been rather evident ever since he's been a full-time DH. They're 6-21 in NL parks since 2008, hitting .231 and averaging 3.81 runs. At home, where they're 17-19 in interleague in that stretch, they're batting .259 and averaging 4.95 runs.
Hafner's power, however, may be a bit wasted at AT&T Park anyway. Just 27 homers have been hit in the Giants' home - 11 fewer than any other venue in baseball.
San Francisco (41-34) has had one bad inning at home in interleague play - Monday's first inning in which Minnesota scored eight runs and chased Madison Bumgarner.
In the Giants' other 56 interleague home innings, they've surrendered eight runs. Ryan Vogelsong pitched seven strong innings in Tuesday's 5-1 win, then Tim Lincecum struck out 12 in a 2-1 victory Wednesday.
San Francisco has needed stellar pitching to have a chance. Wednesday was the 31st time the Giants have scored two runs or fewer - including six of their last seven games - but manager Bruce Bochy says it's not for a lack of effort.
"They've been out there the last two days at 3 o'clock trying to get things working," Bochy told the team's official website. "As long as you do that, you'll get better."
San Francisco could be in for more trouble against Carlos Carrasco (7-3, 3.87 ERA), who's given up one run in his last three starts. That came Saturday against Pittsburgh, when he held the Pirates to four hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-1 victory, his third straight.
"He looks very good right now," Acta said. "He looks like he can throw any pitch in any count and he's mixing them appropriately."
Opposing Carrasco, who is 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA in two interleague starts, is Jonathan Sanchez (4-5, 3.71).
The left-hander has won once in his last seven starts, and he's again having problems finding the plate. Sanchez gave up six hits, three walks - bringing his total to a major league-high 53 - and four runs over 4 2-3 innings Saturday in a 4-2 loss at Oakland.
Sanchez held the Indians to a run over 7 2-3 innings - walking two - in a 3-2 win in Cleveland on June 24, 2008. He'll want to pitch carefully to Orlando Cabrera, who is 5 for 9 with four doubles in their matchups.
The Indians swept their only previous trip to San Francisco in 2005.
The Associated Press News Service
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