Covering the Bases: Game 74
FIRST: The loss aside, it might be time to start considering Jason Kipnis’ candidacy for the American League All-Star team. In April, or even mid-way through May, this was not a topic under discussion. At that point, the second baseman was still working on digging himself out of an early-season hole.
Things have changed in a hurry.
In Sunday’s loss, Kipnis finished 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles for the Indians. It marked his eighth multi-hit showing (and second in as many days) in his stellar June showing.
“It means nothing if you don’t win the game,” Kipnis said. “It’s nice, but I’d rather have guys on, I’d rather be driven in, I’d rather win games. It means nothing if you don’t win.”
Fair enough, but the Indians have been winning more of late — the Tribe has four series wins in a row and eight wins in the last 11 games — and Kipnis has played a role in that. Over his past dozen games, Kipnis has hit at a .476 (20-for-42) clip for Cleveland. In 20 games in June, the second baseman has posted a .400 (28-for-70) average.
American League OPS leaders for June (minimum 40 at-bats):
Mike Carp, BOS: 1.235
Jose Iglesias, BOS: 1.074
Miguel Cabrera, DET: 1.073
Jason Kipnis, CLE: 1.068
Adam Lind, TOR: 1.056
“Right now, [I’m] just seeing the ball really well,” Kipnis said. “Seeing the ball really well and having a consistent swing. [I’m] not changing anything. The point of contact is keeping the same. I’m not trying to pull them and not even trying to go oppo. [I’m] just keeping everything the same, being consistent and seeing the ball really well.”
Kipnis has also reached base (without a reached on error) in 25 consecutive games, which is the third-longest active streak in the Majors. Only Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer (40 games) and Detroit’s Cabrera (38 games) have longer streaks still going. Kipnis is five shy of reaching in 30 straight, which hasn’t been done by an Indians hitter since Ryan Garko went 32 games in 2008. For those curious, the Cleveland record is 55 games in a row by Jim Thome (July 28-Sept.29, 2002).
With his strong June showing, Kipnis has improved his season slash line to .283/.359/.486/.845. Here are his rankings among American League second baseman in each major offensive category: average (fifth), on-base percentage (fourth), slugging percentage (second), OPS (second), nine homers (second), 18 doubles (second), three triples (first), 35 runs (fourth), 41 RBI (second), 17 stolen bases (first), 31 walks (fourth) and 71 hits (seventh).
Here are the top five qualifying AL second baseman ranked by their current OPS:
Robinson Cano, NYY: .276/.354/.497/.850
Jason Kipnis, CLE: .283/.359/.486/.845
Howie Kendrick, LAA: .323/.366/.471/.837
Dustin Pedroia, BOS: .311/.394/.418/.812
Omar Infante, DET: .300/.332/.419/.751
It’s a tough group to crack in terms of making the All-Star team, and Kipnis won’t be voted in as the American League starter at his position. That said, his numbers are undoubtedly worthy of consideration at the very least.
SECOND: It appeared as though Carlos Carrasco had turned a major corner in his last start against the Royals, but the right-hander took another step back in the loss to the Twins on Sunday. Carrasco worked into the fifth inning, but his pitch count soared to 104, he walked four and was chased after giving up three runs in only 4 2/3 innings. All things considered, it could’ve been worse. That was what Indians manager Terry Francona emphasized.
“A lot of deep counts,” Francona said. “The other day, he was missing over the plate. Today, he was missing off the plate a little bit. They squared up a lot of balls. To his credit, he pitched, he never gave in, he limited damage. They just made him work really hard.”
THIRD: Nick Swisher returned to the cleanup spot on Sunday after missing the previous seven games due to a left shoulder issue. After the period of rest, the Indians first baseman came back and went 0-for-5, including a game-ending groundout while representing the game’s tying run. Not exactly a triumphant return for one of Cleveland’s energetic leaders.
Over his past 16 games, dating back to May 30, Swisher has hit .100 (6-for-60) with no home runs and four RBIs for the Indians while battling the shoulder soreness. Over that span, his season slash line has dropped from a respectable .278/.371/.497/.868 to an uncharacteristic .231/.331/.393/.724. What Swisher needs is a Kipnis-esque hot streak to pull his season together.
Swisher will probably remain at first base or designated hitter for the foreseeable future. Francona has noted that he does not plan on throwing him back out in right field any time soon, because there is some expectation that this is the kind of shoulder issue that could linger all year. The last thing Francona wants is for a throw from the outfield to trigger a serious setback.
HOME: Unrelated to the game, but it was pretty neat to chat with actor Kevin Costner before the Indians took the field. He is in Cleveland filming the movie “Draft Day,” in which he plays the Browns general manager. Before the game, he played catch in the outfield, took some grounders at third base and stepped into the cage for a few hacks.
You may or may not recall, but MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince wrote a column about “Field of Dreams” that sparked a critical blog post from me, and then another rebuttal blog entry by AC. It was all in good fun, but Castrovince is dead wrong in thinking “Field of Dreams” was a bad movie.
The one issue I’ve always had with the movie is that Ray Liotta hit right-handed while portraying Joe Jackson. This has bothered me since childhood and I couldn’t let Costner walk away without asking him about it. So I asked, ‘Did Liotta not even try to hit lefty?’ Costner laughed, politely asked that we go off the record, and gave an answer that was satisfactory and more or less what I expected to hear.
That’s all I can say about that.
Indians (38-36) at Orioles (42-34)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday at Camden Yards