Indians hope win sparks struggling offense
CLEVELAND — The definitions of tidy include neat, orderly and organized.
Which is the way the Indians handled Saturday’s 7-2 win over Minnesota. It was a tidy win, wrapped up in orderly and organized fashion. Two runs in the first, two in the fourth and three in the fifth and. Zach McAllister throwing well … the Twins never really threatened.
But contained within this tidy effort were some positives that could portend better things for the Indians soon — especially the offense.
One game does not make a trend, clearly. But for a team that had scored more than four runs in seven-of-22 games and is hitting .227 in August, any good swings are welcome.
Ask Jason Kipnis, who ended an 0-for-19 skein with a base hit up the middle in the first. How big is it to end an 0-for-19 skein?
“Oh my God,” Kipnis said, ‘I wanted to Ricky Henderson, take the base and hold it up for a second.”
Carlos Santana was the next hitter, and he hit on a night when the wind was blowing in from right-center, a night when manager Terry Francona said Progressive Field “played big.”
Santana drove a ball 413 feet into the stands in right-center.
“Absolutely crushed that ball,” Francona said.
In the third, Kipnis matched hit a low line drive that just cleared the fence into the Twins bullpen for another two-run home run.
Kipnis’ struggles stand out because he’s hitting third, a spot where production is needed. Santana has seven extra-base hits, 12 RBI and nine runs scored in his 15 games at cleanup.
In the same 15 games, Kipnis was batting .209.
“You know you’re going to go through some up and downs,” Kipnis said. “Welcome to the game of baseball where you’re feeling great one day and the next it just snaps off and you don’t know how to even hold your hands at the plate.
“For me if I start thinking too much and thinking during my at-bats it shows. You’ll see me take fastballs down the middle and not even swing at them. I’ll be thinking, ‘Why can’t I even pull the trigger on those?’
With slumps, sometimes one swing or one hit can make a difference.
“A lot of it is mental,” Kipnis said. “Kind of clearing your head.”
“It looked like,” Francona said, “when he hit the ball up the middle (in the first) he took a deep breath.”
In the fifth, Nick Swisher’s double drove in two, and Michael Brantley’s line-drive-ruled-a-hit-instead-of-an-error ended his 0-for-22 streak (barring a review by Major League Baseball of the scoring ruling).
The two-three-four-five hitters had driven in all seven runs.
The month of August has not been kind to the Indians bats. Even with the seven-run night Saturday, they’re hitting .227 in August (29th in the league), with an on-base percentage of .292 (28th) and an OPS of .652 (also 28th).
They are averaging 3.6 runs per game, which would be ahead of only Miami if it were prorated for the entire season.
In that same time, the pitchers have a 3.52 ERA, and on the recent road trip the bullpen inherited 25 runners and allowed only one to score.
Despite that, the Indians are 11-11 in this month.
And despite the 11-11 record, the Indians remain in the wild card hunt.
Which is why it matters that they got the offense going for one night.
“We needed a nice little offensive day like this,” Kipnis said. “We know the offense has been struggling a little bit, so tonight was a good night for us to have.”
If it carries through, the evening would be wrapped up in a tidy gift wrapped up with a tidy bow.