Coincidence or not, the Cleveland Indians lineup was changed and it turned out to be great. Without some kind of peeling back of the universe, we really can’t know if the offensive explosion put on by the Indians was because of a newly configured one-through-nine, or if it was just dumb baseball luck.
Whatever the reason: it worked.
Entering play today, the Indians played 35 games, each and every one of them led off by Carlos Santana. Santana has lived up to the role of leadoff hitter just fine, walking in almost 14 percent of his at-bats and, especially over the last week, getting on base well. But with the entire Indians lineup looking like they needed a reminder to baseball, Terry Francona shook things up. Jason Kipnis was shifted to the leadoff spot, and Carlos was dropped to sixth. Kipnis responded with a 4-for-5 day, including two home runs, and Santana hit a dinger himself. Again, it could be blind luck or it could be that they were facing Hector Santiago, but the lineup shift “worked,” looking solely at the results of game 36.
Lonnie Chisenhall got in on the donger party as well, slugging his third home run of the season. The notable difference in this home run being that it was off a lefty, his first off a southpaw since he took John Danks yard in September 2015. The Indians have lost a lot of outfield depth with injuries to Abe Almonte, Austin Jackson, and Brandon Guyer, so Chisenhall was left in to bat against a lefty today and it clearly worked.
Even the big roster moves of the day, promoting Erik Gonzalez and Daniel Robertson, seemed to work in Cleveland’s favor. After about a dozen attempts to pick Jose Ramirez off at first base, Robertson singled in the second to give the Indians an early 2-0 lead. Gonzalez was a late-inning replacement for Francisco Lindor (who only needed rest, don’t freak out), and he had himself a hit in his only at-bat. Before being removed from the game, Lindor was 2-for-3 with a walk, which is encouraging given his string of bad games recently.
The offensive damage would have been even worse if Byron Buxton was not some kind of Kenny Lofton incarnate wizard in center field. The dude has been flying all over the outfield this series, and we can only hope his poor offense will lead the Twins to demoting him before these two teams meet again. But as a fan of speedy center-fielders, part of me doesn’t want that to happen, because just look at this.
Lonnie even tried to do the same thing, but it didn’t go well.
On the pitching front, it’s hard to feel too strongly about Trevor Bauer’s start today, though his seven strikeouts to zero walks was outstanding. Two of runs would have been cancelled out if Chisenhall was replaced with Buxton, but he still gave up seven hits and looked like he was on the verge of collapsing once he made it to the third time through the order. Bauer seemed to have a very specific plan for some opponents, but others he left too many balls up and over the plate. This one in particular, that Miguel Sano cracked back at 108 miles per hour, was especially bad, and he’s lucky it didn’t leave Progressive Field.
The Indians avoided the sweep, finally won at home, saw their offense come alive, and the bullpen remained rock solid. Hard not to love this game, now let’s do it again.