Covering the Bases: Game 23
FIRST: It started on Twitter, spreading amongst Indians fans. Now, it’s officially made its way into the Indians’ clubhouse. I am, of course, referring to the rallying cry of “We are all Kipnisses.” Tribe starter Justin Masterson used the catch phrase in his postgame scrum with reporters on Thurday night.
“We are all Kipnisses of how great he’s going to be as a hitter,” Big Masty said with a grin.
The White Sox are certainly witness.
In the three-game set in his native Chi-town, all Kipnis did was go 6-for-11 at the plate with one home run, one double, one triple, a stolen base, two walks, two runs and five RBIs. The homer, triple and four of the RBIs came in Thursday’s win, which was the fourth road series win in a row for Cleveland.
Over his past 11 games, Kipnis has hit .439 (18-for-41) after managing only a .167 (8-for-48) average in his first 12 games of the season. On the year, he’s hit .292 with four home runs and a team-leading 17 RBIs through 23 games. Beyond that, Kip has mixed in two doubles, three triples, five stolen bases, nine walks and 15 runs scored.
SECOND: I’ve grown weary of fans who immediately call for a player’s release after one rough outing. My Twitter account was flooded with Dan Wheeler hate after he yielded a two-run homer to Adam Dunn in the ninth inning. First of all, he’s the sixth reliever in a seven-man bullpen. Second of all, Wheeler had allowed runs in only one of his eight outings this season. Over his last five? Zilch. Calm down, people.
Take a moment to break down the situation.
With the Indians up 7-3, and the team in the midst of 21 games in 20 days, and Wheeler having not seen the mound in a week, it was as good a time as any to get the veteran right-hander some work. Yes, he gave up a bomb, one that created a save situation, but it happens.
Wheeler’s misstep ended the bullpen’s run of 17.2 consecutive shutout innings. That was going to be snapped at some point.
THIRD: Masterson has now had two solid outings after a pair of rough ones for the Tribe. Against the ChiSox, the righty gave up three runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. His performance was better than it looked, too. In the fifth inning, Alejandro De Aza plated two of Chicago’s three runs off Masty with an unlikely infield single. With runners on second and third, De Aza chopped a pitch back to the mound. It bounced off Masterson and rolled just out of Kipnis’ range and into right field. No harm done. Cleveland got the ‘W’ and so did Masterson.
HOME: … is where the Indians are heading. Cleveland improved to 9-3 on the road with the win over the White Sox and has won its first four road sets to begin a season for the first time since 1961. That’s great and all, but the Tribe is 4-7 at home and the Power Rangers await their arrival.
In the meantime, Cleveland is happy with its road performance.
“It’s very important, especially early in the year,” manager Manny Acta said. “It sets the tone and gives guys the confidence that, yeah, we can win on the road, especially after struggling a little bit at home. It’s important to balance things out. We need to go home and play better baseball.”
Rangers (17-8) at Indians (13-10)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Progressive Field
NOTE: It’s Family Week for the Bastian clan. I will be spending the weekend here in my old stomping grounds on Chicago’s South Side, getting some quality time in with some extended family for a few days before returning to Cleveland. This space and my Twitter account will be quiet until my return. Keep checking Indians.com for updates and give MLB.com’s @ZackMeisel a follow.