As the top of the Indians lineup begins to heat up, Indians respond with runs to split series with Blue Jays; Starting pitching falling short and putting tired bullpen in awkward position
The Indians ended the weekend on a good note, splitting the series with Toronto by beating the Blue Jays 10-7 in comeback fashion.
After finding themselves in a 6-1 hole and an offensive explosion (including a grand slam) by the Royals, the Indians responded with an offensive explosion of their own, bringing the score back to even at 6-6. After that, the Indians were able to tack on another two runs and finally ended the game beating the Royals 10-7.
What was even more impressive? The top 4 batters in the lineup went 10-14 which included 3 doubles and a homerun.
Michael Brantley continues to shred the ball increasing his overall slash line to .352/.410/.507 while Jason Kipnis continues to impress in his new role as leadoff hitter.
Let’s look a little more in-depth at Jason Kipnis over the last 7-10 days:
According to baseball-reference.com, Jason Kipnis is hitting .375/.500/.792 over his over the last 7 days with 3 HRs, 7 RBIs and 1 2B. He has walked 5 times and only struck out twice. In that time span, he holds an OPS of 1.292.
In the month of May in particular (3 of 4 games against Toronto), Kipnis is hitting .667/.733/1.250 with an OPS of nearly 2.000
That’s right, nearly 2.000.
For the season as a whole, Kipnis is not only hitting well when in a hitters count (defined as 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2), but he is also hitting decent with two strikes (.280/.333/.480). His two-strike hitting slash line is nearly identical to his slash line with RISP and with two outs and runners in scoring position, Kipnis is hitting .286/.444/.286 (9 PAs/7 Abs).
Another interesting note: This year, Kipnis has equal the amount of hits (7) to right field (pull) and left field (opposite field) and is actually hitting better to the opposite field (.412/.389/.588 to the opposite field vs .318/.318.455 to pull).
But enough about Jason Kipnis; let’s talk quickly about Ryan Raburn:
Ryan Raburn (of all people) is annihilating left-handed pitching, hitting .441/.459/.706 so far this season. He is the ultimate option as a pinch hitter against left-handed pitchers right now among all hitters in the MLB. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m super happy that Raburn is riding the Indian’s bench right now. He added a double and two more RBIs in today’s appearance for David Murphy.
The Indians starting pitching has been chased early in many of the contests that I was able to watch this week.
In Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays, Trevor Bauer was chased after just four and a third. The bullpen (surprisingly) allowed just one run over the remaining four and two thirds. They tacked on seven strikeouts while only allowing one walk. While it took 90 pitches (51 strikes) for Trevor Bauer to get through slightly more than four innings, it only took 62 pitches (40 strikes) for the bullpen in the remaining four and two-thirds. The bullpen was extremely efficient with Mark Rzepczynski and Scott Atchison tossing less than 10 pitches a piece in their appearances.
In Saturday’s loss, Corey Kluber lasted only 5.0 innings. On Friday, Carlos Carrasco lasted 6.0 innings and on Thursday, T.J House lasted just three innings.
For a bullpen that is already struggling due to, what would appear to be being overworked/tired this season and last, it is imperative for the Indian’s starting pitching to get past at least the sixth inning in more than 80% of May games.
In the same vein, the Indian’s starting pitching requires at least some form of run support. The move and subsequent awakening of Jason Kipnis in the leadoff spot and the emergence of Michael Brantley seems to be signaling a thawing trend for the Indian’s cold bats.
Carlos Santana walking his way to top marks in OBP
Carlos Santana continues to impress in that, when he isn’t getting the pitches to hit that he is comfortable with, he has the patience and frame of mind to hold off and work walks. He is getting on base regardless of what opposing pitching is throwing at him. This strategy worked for him well last year (he led the majors in walks) and as the bats continue to thaw, I guarantee that he will take more bases and score more, regardless of how he happened to get on base.
If just three or four players in the Indians lineup could adopt Santana’s method of patience at the plate, we could see a fundamental turnaround of this team in as little as three or four games.
Will this adaptation happen? No, not in a million years. We can dream though.
To come this week
We also have to deal with Nick Swisher entering the everyday lineup again sometime later in the week which I am just overjoyed about. Nick Swisher is exactly what this team needs right now.
Forget Michael Bourn’s abhorrent record thus far at the dish – Nick Swisher could possibly sink lower.
Then we would have two players anchoring the lineup to the cellar of the AL Central.
The plan is to look at Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Carlos Santana under a microscope over the course of this week to analyze just what might be happening as we enter the month of May. With games in the open pastures of Kauffman Stadium, I look for the top of the Indians lineup to hit the ball long and in the gaps. Hopefully these hits translate to some Ws, but of course, it is incumbent on the starting pitching to keep the game close and the bullpen to shut the door.
Have a good week Tribe fans and be sure to check out my conversation with Indians Baseball Insider Owner and Editor-in-Chief, Tony Lastoria at 9:30 PM Wednesday, May 6th on the Tribe Time Now Podcast: