Tribe's offense one of two extremes

Tribe's offense one of two extremes

CLEVELAND -- The Indians' offense sees a lot of pitches. Many of them are ball four, and many of them are strike three.

It's an offense of two extremes. Entering the three-game series with the Royals, which continues Wednesday night at Progressive Field, the Tribe had drawn more walks (67) than any other team in the American League while also striking out 115 more times than any team in the AL.

Hitting coach Derek Shelton isn't overly caught up in either stat. He wants to see his hitters show a good approach at the plate and make the opposing pitcher work. It was a mentality on display Tuesday night, when Tribe batters made Sidney Ponson throw 80 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings in which he gave up six runs on eight hits with four walks and two strikeouts.

"We've always talked about how we want to use the walk as a weapon with our approach," Shelton said. "Not so much because we're looking to walk, but so our lineup rolls over. Maybe the guy in front of you doesn't get pitches to hit, but you get pitches to hit."

Shelton shrugs off the strikeouts, for the most part.

"At times, it sounds like a cop out, but we've always struck out," he said. "Even the games we score runs, we strike out. Do we work on [not doing] it? Yes. Do we talk about it? Yes. But we don't worry about it. Our focus is more on limiting those strikeouts in crucial situations -- runner-on-third-with-less-than-two-out situations."

Early this season, with the team in the midst of an 0-5 start, the offense struggled in the clutch. But the Tribe's .289 average and .865 OPS with runners in scoring position both ranked among the league's best.

"We've gotten in a situation where we're seeing more pitches," Shelton said. "Once guys got a couple of big hits, it relieved pressure in our lineup. Once somebody contributes one way or another, it relieves the pressure with that guy and steamrolls with the whole lineup."

The Indians might have their work cut out for them when they face Wednesday's starter, right-hander Brian Bannister. He's had success against the Tribe in the past, going 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in six career appearances, including a 2-1 record and 2.70 ERA in three games last year.

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP Cliff Lee (1-2, 6.75 ERA)
Lee finally showed his Cy Young stuff in his third start of the season against the Yankees on Thursday. He went six innings, allowing just a run on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts to get his first win. The lone run came on a Jorge Posada solo shot. Efficiency is still an issue for Lee. The six-inning outing was his longest in three starts. He had to work himself out of some early jams, but his command, on the whole, was much improved. Lee is 12-4 with a 4.47 ERA in 19 career starts against the Royals, including a 5-0 record and 2.63 ERA in five starts last season.

KC: RHP Brian Bannister (Season debut)
First it was Horacio Ramirez dropped into this start, originally assigned to Gil Meche, in order to give Meche, Zack Greinke and Kyle Davies each an extra day of rest. Now it's Bannister, just recalled from Triple-A Omaha to reclaim the rotation spot that he lost in Spring Training. Bannister warmed up with two scoreless innings on Sunday for Omaha, giving him a string of nine shutout innings in his past two starts after a rough first outing. Bannister had a terrific rookie season for the Royals in 2007, when he went 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA, but then last year he slipped to 9-16 and a 5.76 ERA. Now he gets a shot at re-establishing himself against the Indians.

Tidbits
The Indians induced six double plays in Tuesday's win. That ties a club record achieved two other times, most recently on July 10, 1988, against the Angels. ... Only 11,408 tickets were purchased for Tuesday's game. That's the smallest attendance figure in Progressive Field history. The previous low was a crowd of 12,162 for an April 27, 2005, game against the Tigers. ... The Indians have won four of six. ... Wednesday's game marks the debut of the new "Fill the House" community outreach program. Through the program, for every ticket sold to Wednesday home games, the Indians will donate $1 to a designated charity. For Wednesday's game, that charity is the American Red Cross. The Red Cross was also given tickets to sell to the game, and the charity will keep $5 from each ticket sold.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• STO-HD

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Thursday: Royals (Gil Meche, 1-0, 2.25) at Indians (Anthony Reyes, 1-0, 5.73), 12:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Twins (Nick Blackburn, 0-1, 5.71) at Indians (Fausto Carmona, 1-2, 7.88), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Twins (Kevin Slowey, 2-0, 5.89) at Indians (Carl Pavano, 0-2, 9.69), 7:05 p.m. ET

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.