Covering the Bases: Game 36

Cincinnati Reds v Cleveland Indians

Some notes and quotes from Tuesday’s 13-1 rout over the Reds.

FIRST: After Monday’s 15-6 romp over the Reds, I’m sure a lot of you at home were thinking, “Gee, Tribe. Save some runs for tomorrow.” Well, it turns out that Cleveland saved up plenty more for Tuesday, too.

Thirteen more runs. Seventeen more hits. Another rout.

“We did it one through nine. Everyone chipped in,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Everybody got some hits and took some walks. It allows us to be aggressive on the bases. Good things happen. It’s kind of rare. So you take it and you enjoy it. We will move on quickly, because we got to play them again tomorrow.”

Sticking with what we did here Monday, here’s a look at Tuesday’s production…

Carlos Santana: 2-for-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB
Jason Kipnis: 1-for-4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Francisco Lindor: 3-for-6, 2 2B
Mike Napoli: 2-for-4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Jose Ramirez: 1-for-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Yan Gomes: 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 RBI
Lonnie Chisenhall: 3-for-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 2B
Marlon Byrd: 1-for-4, 1 R
Rajai Davis: 3-for-3, 4 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 2B

The Indians have scored 13 or more runs in consecutive games for the first time since May 17-19, 1999, when they did so against the White Sox. This is only the second time since 1937 that Cleveland has had 13-plus runs with 17-plus hits in back-to-back games. The only other occurrence was May 4-5, 1991, against Oakland.

DISCLAIMER: This is where it’s only fair to point out that Cleveland’s production came against the worst pitching staff in baseball. Cincinnati’s 5.56 ERA ranks last in the Majors, and that is ballooned by the highest bullpen ERA (6.46) in the game, too.

That said, Cleveland’s hitters definitely needed a confidence boost and the group is going to enjoy this two-game flourish. Consider this: Cleveland had a .247/.307/.388 through Sunday’s action. Now? Try .260/.323/.403. That’s an OPS jump of .031 points in a span of two games. Not bad at all.

“It’s not just how many hits we got, it’s the way we got them,” Kipnis said. “A lot of walks, getting to the next guy. That’s what we’ve been preaching. A lot of two-strike hits, going the other way. Guys are having good at-bats. You don’t want to see what was going on before, where we got a lot of hits with two outs and no runs to show for it. It’s getting the first guy on and [going] to the next guy.”

SECOND: That brings us to the bottom of the fifth inning…

With one out and runners on the corners, and the Indians already holding a commanding eight-run advantage, Cincinnati handed the ball to reliever Steve Delabar. The righty faced six batters, and walked five of them. Four of those came consecutively with the bases loaded.

Think about that for a second. That’s a grand slam via walks. That’s…

“Unexpected,” Gomes said with a laugh.

Napoli (8.6 BB%, entering Tuesday), Ramirez (6.9 BB%), Gomes (4.4 BB%)and Chisenhall (5.6 BB%) each drew a walk to drive in a run. Kipnis earned the first free pass from Delabar, so the Tribe’s second baseman got to make the entire 360-foot trek around the bases via jog.

“That might have been the easiest run scored that I’ve had,” Kipnis said with a chuckle. “I worked on my leads. I was very professional. I got some stuff done there. Some good crow hops and secondary leads. That doesn’t happen often.”

No, it doesn’t.

Kipnis became the first Indians player to walk around the bases since Lou Klimchock way back on June 25, 1969. That was the last time Cleveland drew four straight walks with the bases loaded. And, following a 47-year wait for that rare feat to occur, Napoli did the same thing a few minutes later!

THIRD: Let’s not forget about Danny Salazar tonight. It’d be easy to do that after another night of overwhelming offense. Here was Salazar’s line vs. Cincy: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 95 pitches (67 strikes).

“He was good,” Francona said. “He was real good.”

With the exception of some occasional command issues, Salazar has been great to this point this season for the Tribe. He was asked after the win if — after watching Corey Kluber win the Cy Young in ’14 and then seeing Carlos Carrasco’s breakout showing in ’15 — he has felt a drive to take a huge step forward this year.

“Yeah,” Salazar said. “I think this one. And the next one. And the next one after that. I think I’ve been working really hard to be what I am right now. I’m going to keep working.”

Salazar now has a .156 opponents’ average, which is the best mark in the American League and ranks second to only Cubs ace Jake Arrieta in baseball. Salazar’s 31-percent strikeout rate also leads the AL, trailing only Jose Fernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard. Only Jose Quintana and Chris Sale have a better ERA than Salazar (1.80) in the AL at the moment. Only David Price has more strikeouts than him in the AL.

Look at that company Salazar is keeping right now.

“He’s a stud. He’s definitely taken the next step forward,” Kipnis said. “He’s pitching like a top-of-the-rotation guy, which he is. He’s not just a thrower anymore. He’s not just a guy coming out, throwing 97. You’re seeing him work really well off of his changeup and his slider and he’s really figuring out what he is as a pitcher. It’s fun to watch.”

That changeup — technically a split-change — has been a huge key to success for Salazar. And, the pitch has gotten better and better in terms of results each season for the hard-throwing right-hander:

SalazarSplit

On Tuesday night, Salazar held the Reds to a 1-for-11 showing with six strikeouts against his split-change. That one was Tucket Barnhart, who doubled off the pitch in the eighth inning. That made Barnhart the first left-handed batter to get a hit off Salazar’s changeup this season.

Francona said the split-change is a critical part of why hitters are having such a tough time against Salazar this season.

“When he’s throwing that for strikes,” said the manager. “He’s having a tough time working ahead at times. That’s probably the one thing he’s still continuing to work on. But, when he does, that changeup is filthy. It’s almost like a forkball. It’s so hard, but it’s got so much deception.”

HOME: A lot of Indians batters have enjoyed strong showings the past two games, but let’s hone in on a pair to finish things off for tonight.

First, Davis. Over the past two games, the outfielder has gone 5-for-7 with four walks, four RBI and six runs scored. In the process, he has seen his season on-base percentage rise from .248 to .302 in a span of 48 hours. On Tuesday, Davis was on base five times.

Davis joined Manny Ramirez (Aug. 7, 1999) and Charlie Jamieson (Sept. 15, 1921) as the only Indians players in team history to have at least two walks, three hits, three RBI and four runs in a single game.

“He will be a guy too that gets hot in spurts,” Francona said on Monday night. “You saw in Spring Training, he will get hits in bunches. And the way he runs the bases, he causes havoc. That will be really welcome.”

Next up: Welcome back, Lonnie Chisenhall.

Chisenhall was away from the team for four days to be with his family, following the death of a close family member. To have that happen in the middle of a season has to be emotionally draining. And, what did Chisenhall do? In his first game back, he notched three hits, including two doubles, and he drew one of the bases-loaded walks.

“We’re so heart-felt about what he’s going through,” Gomes said. “That’s something that we can’t even imagine. We’re just standing behind him any way we can. He’s such a big part of this clubhouse. We’re all here for him and it was really exciting to see him have a good game.”

Chisenhall, who dealt with forearm and wrist issues in the spring, leading to a season-opening stint on the disabled list, began the year in a 2-for-18 skid. In the 12 games since then, though, the outfielder has hit .378/.439/.486 in 41 plate appearances. His season slash jumped to .291/.339/.400 from .255/.296/.333 with Tuesday’s outburst.

“When he starts getting base hits like he did to left field in that one at bat [in the fifth],” Francona said, “hopefully that shows that maybe he’s going to get hot. He has a knack for doing that. Then, he also turned on a ball into right field. I thought that was a real good sign.”

EXTRAS: In the second inning, Gomes sent a pitch rocketing high off the 19-foot wall in left field for a long single. When he reached base, Reds first baseman Joey Votto quipped: “Stipe’s got more pop than you.” That was because UFC champ Stipe Miocic hit a batting-practice home run over the same area before Tuesday’s game. Click on the tweet below to read about his visit, his friendship with Gomes and to see video from his BP session.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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