Indians offense tamed with Encarnacion injured
By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Minus injured slugger Edwin Encarnacion, the Cleveland Indians have scored three runs in the past two games.
They get one more chance to close out the New York Yankees.
Encarnacion remained out of Cleveland’s lineup Monday night in Game 4 of its AL Division Series against New York. He’s been sidelined since leaving Game 2 with a sprained right ankle last Friday.
Michael Brantley replaced Encarnacion at designated hitter again and went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts as the Indians committed a season-high four errors and lost 7-3, tying the series at two games apiece. A decisive Game 5 is Wednesday night in Cleveland, with the winner advancing to play Houston in the AL Championship Series.
Prior to Game 4, manager Terry Francona said the team hoped Encarnacion would be able to pinch-hit Monday night. He never came off the bench.
Cleveland had a chance for a three-game sweep Sunday but lost 1-0 to the Yankees as Brantley went 0 for 2 with a walk.
Encarnacion wasn’t even available in Game 3, Francona said. But the defending AL champions have chosen not to pursue replacing him on the active roster because that would make the three-time All-Star ineligible in the next round.
“I think we’re making the right decision,” Francona said. “Because to not have Edwin — and it hurt us (Sunday) night — to just write him off if we can move on, that would be tough to do.”
Encarnacion batted .258 with 38 home runs and 107 RBIs in his first season with the Indians this year. Cleveland signed him to a $60 million, three-year contract after he spent seven-plus seasons with Toronto.
“Obviously, you don’t replace a guy like Edwin, but we have a fairly deep lineup. We have many other ways to create runs,” teammate Jason Kipnis said.
Jay Bruce batted in Encarnacion’s cleanup spot in Game 3 and struck out all four times up, stranding three runners. Bruce, a big star in the first two games, was back in the No. 4 hole Monday and went 1 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout. He scored on Carlos Santana’s two-run homer.
Brantley, who is 1 for 11 in the series, was moved up from seventh to sixth in the order. The two-time All-Star missed Cleveland’s run to the World Series last year and only recently returned from an ankle ligament injury that kept him out for 50 games after Aug. 8 this season.
“I think the hope is that the more at-bats he gets, the more his timing will come back. And in the meantime, he finds a way to help us win a game,” Francona said before Game 4. “I know it’s not ideal.”
“It’s pretty obvious that he’s not like, midseason locked in. I still think he competes and he’s intelligent, and I bet you he’ll find a way to help us win,” the manager added. “There’s a lot of belief in him. And I know it’s not easy. He hasn’t played very much.”
Lonnie Chisenhall played left field after Austin Jackson started there in Game 3. Roberto Perez was the catcher for the second straight night rather than Game 2 star Yan Gomes.
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