July 2, 2016

Mostly clear

Home is where the heartbreak is for Indians

CLEVELAND — Home is no longer sweet for the Cleveland Indians.

A 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday was the fifth straight loss at Progressive Field for the Tribe. Cleveland is just 4-8 in its last 12 home games dating back to June 20.

In the recent five-game skid, the Indians were outscored 30-14 by the Toronto Blue Jays in three games prior to the All-Star break and in the pair of games against the White Sox — the third game in the series was rained out Saturday.

Earlier in the season the Indians rattled off 14 consecutive home wins, while jumping out to the best record in baseball over the first 45 games (30-15). Their 14-2 home start was the best in franchise history.

The magic of the 1990s-era Indians appeared to be back during the strong start — the Tribe won 10 home games in their last at-bat, including a pair of walk-off grand slams by Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner.

Sunday’s starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who has allowed two or fewer earned runs in nine of his 11 home starts in 2011, still thinks the team has some home magic left for the final stretch.

“Sitting back in the clubhouse, I felt really good going into the ninth today knowing our big hitters were coming up to bat,” Masterson said. “We were one swing away from tying it when Carlos got on base. It didn’t quite work out today, but there’s still something about the last at-bats with this team.”

But a 19-6 home record over the first two months of the season has been tempered by an 8-14 mark since the beginning of June. Injuries have taken their toll on the Indians lineup.

Since the disastrous three-game series in San Francisco where the Indians were swept by the defending World Series champs and lost right fielder Shin-Soo Choo with a broken thumb, Cleveland is 8-6 on the road compared to 3-6 at home.

“We keep scrapping and battling every day, but the one thing we can’t control is injuries,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. “I’ll let you draw your own conclusion as to how things might be different with the guys we are missing.”

Overall the Indians are hitting .254 at Progressive Field compared to .245 on the road, with 56 of their 90 home runs coming at home. But since June 1, the Indians have been shutout three times at home and held to three or fewer runs 10 times.

Between today when they open up a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels and Sept. 1, the Indians will play 23 of its next 36 games at home. Twelve of those games will be against AL Central rivals and 17 of those games will be against teams with sub .500 records giving the Indians a chance to regain some of that home-field advantage.

Acta said it just takes one game to turn a team around.

“All we need to do is win a ballgame,” Acta said. “We’ve lost four in a row. Now we just need to go out and win one to start a new streak.”

Despite their recent troubles, the Indians still possess the fourth-best home record in the American League. If the season ended today, the three teams with better home marks than the Tribe — Boston, Texas and the New York Yankees — would all be headed to the postseason.

If the Indians want to join that group and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007, they will need to get back to doing what good teams do best — taking care of business at home.

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.