Chalk it up to an unfortunate stretch of Interleague scheduling.
This season, the Tribe is the only team from the American League Central to play nine consecutive games in National League ballparks. Cleveland's first stop is currently San Francisco, and the club heads to Arizona and Cincinnati over the next two series.
In the AL, the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Angels have also been scheduled for nine straight road games against the Senior Circuit. Cleveland, however, also played nine Interleague road games in a row in 2010. The Tribe is the only AL team to have two such treks in the past two seasons.
Due to right shoulder issues in recent seasons, Hafner is not able to play first base and risk the throws that would likely come along with manning the position. As a result, Cleveland's cleanup hitter is now the team's primary pinch-hitter. It is a tough loss for the Tribe, considering Hafner's recent production.
Entering Friday, Hafner was hitting .338 with seven home runs, nine doubles, 19 runs scored, 29 RBIs and a .981 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 37 games for the Indians. Since returning from a month-long stint on the disabled list due to a right oblique injury, Hafner has hit .294 (5-for-17) with two homers and seven RBIs in five games.
Last year, Hafner hit at a .345 clip with four homers and 10 RBIs in the nine games leading up to the nine-game road swing under NL rules. Then, Hafner went 0-for-5 during those games as a pinch-hitter. Once Hafner returned to his DH duties, he hit .235 with no homers and one RBI in the nine games after that stretch.
Hafner plans on doing all he can to stay sharp this time around.
"I'll do the same thing," he said. "I'll just watch a lot of bullpens from our pitchers, do a lot of work in the cage and study the opposing pitchers, the bullpen, stuff like that. I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot.
"Hopefully I'll be able to get up in a chance with some runners on and get some big hits. You just kind of stay ready for anything."