MLB

Indians, sans Francona, try to avoid sweep vs. Padres

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians this week have played two games without manager Terry Francona, and they have lost both.

Nobody is sure when Francona will rejoin the team. He is in the Cleveland Clinic undergoing tests to try to determine the cause of his occasional bouts with a rapid heartbeat.

There is no timeframe for Francona's return, but team president Chris Antonetti said it will be "at least a few more days."

In Francona's absence, bench coach Brad Mills has been the acting manager. In the two games Francona has missed, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Indians lost to the San Diego Padres 1-0 and 6-2.

On Thursday, the Padres will go for a series sweep, and Mills admits the Indians have been affected by Francona's absence.

"There's no doubt everyone is thinking about it; but, at the same time, you try to be professional about it and know you still have to go about your work," Mills said.

Antonetti said doctors have "eliminated anything major" and that he's confident that Francona "is on the right path" to an eventual return.

In the meantime, Mills will attempt to get the Indians out of the two-day malaise they've been in against San Diego. The Indians enter Thursday's game with an offense that has sputtered the past two games, going 4-for-25 with runners in scoring position.

"I think some guys might be putting some pressure on themselves and they maybe expand the zone," Mills said. "We have had some good at-bats and are getting hits. But when you don't get hits with runners in scoring position, it can bite you."

Part of the problem for the Indians is that the San Diego bullpen has been outstanding, pitching 8 2/3 scoreless innings.

"They're good. We've got nice options down there," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We can go to our 'pen in the sixth inning against a good club and feel good about it. We trust those guys."

The pitching matchup for Thursday's series finale will be a pair of right-handers as San Diego rookie Dinelson Lamet (3-2, 5.35 ERA) opposes Josh Tomlin (4-9, 6.17). Lamet has gotten better as the season has progressed, while Tomlin has gotten worse.

In his first four starts, Lamet was 2-2 with an 8.50 ERA, although his opponents' batting average was a respectable .257. In his last three starts, Lamet is 1-0 with a 2.37 ERA, having held hitters to a .159 average, with 25 strikeouts in 19 innings.

Tomlin is 1-2 with a 7.65 ERA in his last five starts. Teams have hit .394 against him in those games, during which Tomlin has allowed eight home runs in 20 innings.

Thursday will be Tomlin's first career appearance against San Diego. In 17 career interleague starts, he is 8-5 with a 4.65 ERA. He has started three interleague games this year, going 1-2 with a 7.88 ERA.