November 23, 2014

Medina
Rain
51°F

Tribe notes: Pronk kicking it up

CLEVELAND — Pronk is finally starting to flex his mus­cles.

After hitting just four home runs over his first 49 games of the season, Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner has gone deep three times over his last five games.

A solo shot from Hafner to lead off the second inning accounted for the only run Cleveland scored off Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg in the Indians’ 9-4 loss to Washing­ton on Sunday.

The injury-prone Hafner has remained healthy thus far and he was hitting for average early before an extended slump. But the power from the franchise leader in homers and RBIs by a DH had been vacant until now.

What is Hafner’s explanation for the recent power surge?

“I’ve just been spending a lot of time in the cage making some adjustments swing-wise,” said Hafner, who is batting .247 with seven homers and 25 RBIs. “I’m just trying to be shorter to the ball, and it’s made a big difference.”

.

.

Fabulous Fausto

It’s beginning to look a lot like 2007 for Fausto Carmona.

Carmona, who finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting that year, is as close to that form as he’s been in the last three seasons, with a 5-5 record and 3.23 ERA through 13 starts.

Carmona’s ERA ranked 13th in the AL through Saturday as the right-hander had limited the opposition to three runs or fewer in 11 of his outings.

The complete game Carmona tossed Saturday against the Nationals was his second of the season and the Indians’ sixth, which ranked third in the majors through Saturday, behind the seven thrown by the Angels and Phillies.

Ragged reliever

Tony Sipp’s struggles continued in earnest Sunday. The left-hander allowed three runs on five hits in his only inning of work in the eighth — the hits coming to the first five batters he faced, including a two-run homer to unheralded Roger Bernadino.

Sipp (0-2, 7.48 ERA) allowed just three earned runs in his first 21 appearances of the season, but has surrendered 15 earned runs in seven games (2 1 / 3 innings) since. “I think it’s command,” said manager Manny Acta. “I think the pitches are getting too much of the plate. When he falls behind, he’s not making pitches.”

Next up

The Indians are off today before hosting the Mets in another interleague series that begins Tuesday night at 7:05.

Justin Masterson (2-5, 4.74 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing LHP Johan Santana (4-3, 2.96).

Mitch Talbot (7-4, 3.59) goes for the Indians on Wednesday (7:05 p.m.) against LHP Jonathan Niese (3-2, 3.61), while Jake Westbrook (4-3, 4.62) starts the series finale Thursday (7:05 p.m.), the Mets countering with RHP R.A. Dickey (4-0, 2.78).

Minor detail

Double-A Akron beat Portland 12-5 Saturday to set a franchise record with its 12th straight win. The Aeros got three hits apiece from Lonnie Chisenhall, John Drennen and Carlos Rivero in the win.

Roundin’ third

  • Shin-Soo Choo extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-run single in his final at-bat in the ninth inning. He is batting .364 (16-for-44) with six RBIs over the span.
  • ◾The Indians signed two more picks from the recent First Year Player Draft, agreeing to terms with right-handed pitcher Jordan Cooper (ninth round) and catcher Diego Seastruck (14th round). Cooper, a Wichita State product, was the Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year this season after going 10-3 with a 2.01 ERA for the Shockers. Seastruck hit .369 with nine homers and 52 RBIs for Rice University this season.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.