Kipnis finding more consistency for Indians

Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley, right, celebrates his two-run home run against the Kansas City Royals with Jason Kipnis (22) in the fourth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 21, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Mark Duncan/AP

CLEVELAND — Compared to last April, almost anything this month would have been an improvement for Jason Kipnis. It has been during the Indians’ current homestand though that the All-Star second baseman has started to find more consistency.

Kipnis was 2 for 4 and hit the go-ahead double in the seventh as the Indians posted a 5-3 victory over Kansas City Wednesday night at Progressive Field.

"I set the bar so low last April that it is kind of gravy here on out," Kipnis said. "Even with my average not being that high I am having good at-bats, swinging at the right pitches, not chasing too many. I like where my walk-strikeout ratio is at. Overall, a lot better."

After batting .200 last April, Kipnis’ average is .243 through this season’s first 21 games (he was hitting .218 after the same amount of games last year). He has the same amount of RBI with 10 but the biggest improvements have been in strikeouts and walks. He has 10 less strikeouts and has drawn six more walks. His on-base percentage of .367 is way ahead of last year’s .281.

By hitting regularly in the third spot, Kipnis said he has grown to understand the level of responsibility in that role.

"Before I would rather take a swinging bunt than a line drive and out but I’m starting to learn there are quality at-bat’s and there’s a right way to go at the situational hitting. I think I’m handling it well so far," he said.

Even with last year’s struggles in the first month, Kipnis ended up batting .284, including hitting .419 in June when he was the AL’s Player of the Month.

As Terry Francona said after Wednesday’s game, he has far less of a mountain to climb this year.

"He’s always a threat. Every time. Whether it’s left-handed or right-handed, because he can hit the ball all over the field, he can hit the ball out of the ballpark, he can beat you with his legs," Francona said. "I don’t really look up and see what Kip’s batting average is, because we want him hitting all the time."

Kipnis’ double to the gap in right-center scored Nick Swisher to give the Indians a 4-3 lead in the seventh. In the sixth, the Royals took a 3-2 lead when Eric Hosmer scored on a Mike Moustakas two-out single. Earlier in the inning, Kipnis was unable to snag Asdrubal Cabrera’s throw at second on a fielder’s choice as the Indians committed an AL-leading 21st error.

With his sixth multi-hit game of the season, Kipnis is 4 for 13 in the Royals series and 7 for 22 on the homestand.

Francona said when Kipnis got his six-year, $52.5-million extension that he thought Kipnis would play better because of the security of having a long-term deal. Three weeks into the extension, Kipnis feels he is playing the same way.

"I don’t like to think that I would have changed my play with or without the money. I was already telling a lot of people I was living comfortably off minimum as is," he said. "With that being said your money is tied up for the next 5-6 years and it’s nice to have that peace of mind and go out and play the game."

Coming into the Kansas City series, Kipnis, Swisher and Michael Bourn were batting a combined .190. Through the first three games, they are 7 for 22 and had six of the Tribe’s 11 hits on Wednesday. Bourn had his first three-hit game but was caught stealing twice while Swisher was 1 for 4.

With the Tribe going on a six-game road trip after Thursday’s game, the top of the order is coming along at the right time. The Indians are 3-3 on the current homestand and have taken two of three from Kansas City.

"You have two or three dudes in your lineup that can carry you at one time. You rarely find a lineup that’s hot one through nine. If so, it’s going to be hard to beat them," Bourn said. "We have the potential but we just continue to go game by game. We’ll take it from there."

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