CLEVELAND -- If Shelley Duncan had a bad day at the plate early in the season, he didn't think too much about it. He'd be back in the lineup as the Indians starting left fielder the next day with a chance to put the last one behind him.
Now that he's not an everyday player, Duncan usually has several days to think about his last game. That hasn't been a good thing for Duncan lately, who has started to struggle with the mental part of the game.
"It's always tough when you have sporadic playing time," Duncan said. "Sometimes it's trickier getting the stick going. It's more of a little mind game sometimes. Sometimes when you think about it too much it just hinders the process, instead of just going out there and hacking your way out of it."
Duncan started the season on a tear after being the team's Opening Day starter in left. In nine games before the Indians signed left fielder Johnny Damon on April 17, Duncan hit .333 with two homers and six RBIs. He had drawn 10 walks and struck out only six times to that point.
But since the Indians made the move for Damon and changed Duncan's role, his numbers have suffered. Entering Sunday, Duncan was hitting only .163 with two home runs and six RBIs in 36 games since the Damon signing and, unlike earlier in the season, he hasn't been patient at the plate. He's drawn only nine walks and has struck out 29 times during the current stretch.
"It's a tough job being in the role for everybody," Duncan said. "If you're trying to get things going and you have one game, and then you have a couple days to sit on it, sometimes you over-think yourself in that period. It's tough. Anybody in that spot could tell you that."
Duncan, who was 0-for-3 and failed to come through in a run-scoring situation on Saturday, was out of the lineup for Sunday's game against the Pirates. He will likely continue to see at least some time in left, however, because Damon hasn't been the answer thus far. The veteran outfielder entered Sunday hitting just .175 in 35 games this season.
Duncan believes he'll eventually break out of his current slump.
"It'll come, it'll come," he repeated. "I'm very confident it'll come."
Streak showed Brantley's maturity as hitter
CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley's hitting streak ended Saturday at 22 games. But the effects of the streak will likely stick with Brantley for quite some time.
"He's in a good spot right now at the plate," said Indians manager Manny Acta.
Brantley, who seemingly couldn't buy a hit earlier in the season, finally found some holes for an extended period of games. The Indians center fielder hit a lot of balls hard in April and in early May, but many of them went for outs.
Brantley's success during the longest hitting streak in the Majors this season gave him tangible evidence that he was approaching his at-bats the right way.
"You don't want to make too many mechanical adjustments for that reason," Brantley said, "Because you are hitting the ball, you're just having no luck. You just gotta hope it turns around. Just continue to put good swings on the ball and hopefully find some holes."
- 142 wins
- 110 wins
Brantley did it all for the Indians during the streak. He hit .337 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and 16 RBIs. He even hit an impressive .333 (9-for-27) off left-handers. The hitting streak was the longest for an Indians hitter since Casey Blake hit safely in 26 straight games in 2007.
"It just feels good, because you're helping your team," Brantley said. "The goal is to come out there and play the best you can, and hopefully get hits, score runs and do whatever you can to win ballgames."
Brantley entered Sunday's game against the Pirates hitting .280 with 30 RBIs this season.
Tomlin looking for consistency on mound
CLEVELAND -- Like many of the Indians starting pitchers, Josh Tomlin has been inconsistent in his last few outings.
But Tomlin has had more bad starts than good ones recently. He's allowed four or more runs in three of his last four starts, including six runs in only four innings in his last outing against the Reds.
Tomlin typically throws strikes early in the count, and he doesn't have overpowering stuff. Many teams now know that, and are aggressive against him.
But Indians manager Manny Acta doesn't believe Tomlin's recent struggles can be attributed to teams becoming more familiar with the right-hander. Tomlin is in just his second season as a full-time starter. He was 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 2011.
"Everybody knows everybody in this league," Acta said. "They know he's going to attack the strike zone. It's about him making quality pitches. You can't go from one week everybody knowing you and throwing seven scoreless innings, and then the next week everybody knows you but they hit you around.
"You're going to have five starts where you're going to be untouchable and five where it doesn't matter how hard you're throwing, you're going to be hit around. It's what you do in those other 20."
Tomlin is 3-4 with a 5.56 ERA in nine starts this season, and he is 2-2 in four starts since coming off the disabled list on May 28.
Indians first-round Draft pick Tyler Naquin likely won't make it to the Major League club for several years. But Naquin, an outfielder from Texas A&M, has played for the Indians before. Naquin's first T-ball team as a kid was called the Cleveland Indians, and Naquin said he still has the hat he wore for that team.
Brantley said he didn't think much about his hitting streak while it was going. There were certainly no superstitions. Brantley used different bats, batting gloves and cleats throughout the streak.
"I did absolutely nothing the same," he said.
Entering Sunday, closer Chris Perez had converted 21 consecutive saves since blowing one on Opening Day. Perez is tied with Bob Wickman and Doug Jones for the fourth-longest save streak in Indians history. Jose Mesa owns the team record, covering 38 straight in 1995.
The Indians signed third-round Draft pick Kieran Lovegrove on Sunday. Lovegrove, a high school pitcher from Mission Viejo, Calif., went 6-3 with a 1.58 ERA in his senior season. Cleveland has now signed its top three picks.
First baseman Casey Kotchman's solo home run on Saturday was only his second homer since May 14. The left-handed hitting Kotchman has five home runs and 22 RBIs this season.
Quote to note
"Every team's gonna go through it. We're not always gonna have timely hitting."
--Indians center fielder Michael Brantley, on the team's recent struggles with runners in scoring position. Cleveland entered Sunday's game just 2-for-33 in its last four games in RBI situations.
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.