Slumping Chisenhall trying to find early magic

Slumping Chisenhall trying to find early magic

CLEVELAND -- It was only two months ago when Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall looked like a contender for the American League's batting title. Chisenhall's fortunes in the batter's box have taken a decisively different turn.

During Friday's 5-1 loss to the Astros, Chisenhall went 0-for-2 at the plate before being pulled for a pinch-hitter when left-hander Tony Sipp took the mound for Houston in the eighth inning. The third baseman's showing was the latest in a growing string of rough nights.

"It's a tough league," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "When you're not feeling great at the plate, pitchers will make you wear it. That's what he's going through."

The 25-year-old Chisenhall was in the big league spotlight on June 9, when he turned in an all-time great offensive game by going 5-for-5 with three home runs and nine RBIs against Texas. Two days later, the third baseman's average peaked at .393, and he had seven home runs to go along with 32 RBIs in 168 at-bats.

In the 54 games that followed, Chisenhall earned the right to play on an everyday basis, but hit .193 (37-for-192) with four home runs and 14 RBIs. With his 0-for-2 performance against Houston, his season average dropped to .285, which is respectable overall, but a far cry from where it once stood.

Recently, Francona has cited fatigue as one possible explanation.

"He just isn't getting to some balls that he was earlier," Francona said. "Early in the season, he was hitting a lot of balls to left field. Some of them hard, some of them not hard, finding the outfield grass. Then, as the league started to make adjustments, you could see Lonnie making adjustments and starting to pull the ball.

"Lately, the same balls he was hitting before, he's fouling back or maybe getting jammed a little bit. Some of that could be some fatigue."

Early in the year, Francona used the lefty-swinging Chisenhall sparingly against left-handers and he hit .500 (14-for-28) off southpaws through June 11. Since then, he has hit just .225 (9-for-40) against left-handers and only .182 (28-for-154) off righties. The recent struggles have led Francona to begin picking and choosing the right situations to use the third baseman.

"We've got to pick our spots a little bit," Francona said.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.