The Indians came into Monday riding a three-game losing streak and suffering from a serious loss of positive momentum. To make matters worse, they were already down Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Hafner, and Carlos Santana when it was announced Jack Hannahan would be headed for the DL with a lingering back issue.
Enter Lonnie Chisenhall, who made his triumphant return to the big league club for the first time this season with Hannahan out. We also saw the return of Josh Tomlin to the mound for the first time since May 7 against the White Sox. He wasn’t dominating—far from it actually—but what Tomlin gave the Indians can’t be overlooked. He pitched five solid innings and put the Tribe in a position to win the game, something that wasn’t the case during against Chicago this weekend. In his five innings of work, Tomlin gave up four runs on four hits (two of which were home runs) and two walks. It was a vintage Tomlin performance, although it didn’t start that way.
The Tribe fell behind 2-0 thanks to an Eric Hosmer home run off of Tomlin, and Chisenhall led the comeback charge in the bottom of the third. Chisenhall delivered on Kansas City starter Nate Adcock’s 1-1 pitch with a screaming line drive to right field that would find it’s way into the Royals’ bullpen. It cut the Royals’ lead in half and opened the flood gates for what would eventually turn into a five run inning.
Luke Carlin, Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley all reached base to set the stage for the star of the day, Jason Kipnis. Looking to make something happen with the bases loaded and one out, Kipnis delivered with a line drive single to center that scored two and give the Tribe a 3-2 lead. For Kipnis, the single continued a torrid stretch of hitting; he would finish the day 3-for-4, and over his past six games he is 12-for-24 with 6 RBI.
Next came the most unusual and controversial play of the day. With Brantley on third and Kipnis on first, Jose Lopez hit an insanely high chopper off of home plate. Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas snagged the ball on the way down and faked a throw to first, but had no play on any of the three runners. Everyone was safe and the Indians were up 4-2.
However, Kipnis misread the fake throw and, in an attempt to be aggressive, rounded second base. He was dead in the water with Moustakas running at him. Instead of conceding the tag, Kipnis gave a few shimmies, ducked the Moustakas tag, and made his way to third. The replay later showed that Moustakas did in fact make the tag, but Kipnis wound up safe at third. Casey Kotchman followed with an RBI single, and when all was said and done the Indians had a 5-2 lead.
To their credit, the Royals made a game out of it. They closed the gap to 5-4 on a Bryan Pena home run and a Jarrod Dyson Little League-style home run (he tripled and was awarded home thanks to an errant throw into the stands). They would also tack on a fifth run in the seventh inning, but the Indians were having no part of it on a day when they desperately needed a win.
Lopez got two more RBI and Brantley would add a run-scoring single of his own. The Indians jumped out to an 8-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh. All that was left was for the Indians bullpen to take the reigns and and send the crowd of 25,000 strong home with a smile on their faces; they did just that as Chris Perez received another standing ovation before working a perfect ninth inning for his 17th save of the year.
The Good: First off, Josh Tomlin was solid in his return to the mound. He did exactly what we’ve come to expect from him during his time with the Indians. The two home runs he allowed threatened to sabotage what was an otherwise outstanding day, but it was good to see him succeed right off the bad.
Second, Jason Kipnis and Jose Lopez were outstanding. Kipnis has been on fire lately. He went 3-for-4 on the game and was constantly in the center of the action. I can’t possibly say enough good things about how he has stepped it up a notch with the loss of the big three (Cabrera, Hafner, Santana) in the middle of the lineup. Lopez also got back on track after a horrendous series in Chicago. He had three RBI on the day and continues to make a case to keep playing once everyone returns.
Lastly, Lonnie Chisenhall came up big. In his first big league action of the year, Chisenhall delivered with a solo home run to get things going and ended the day 2-for 4. Yes, he left five men on base, which was bad, but the dinger could serve as a major confidence builder for him moving forward.
The Bad: Johnny Damon and his o-for-3 day at the plate. He was the only Indian not to get in on the hit parade and now his average sits at a ridiculously low .152. Should the Indians keep running him out there day after day or should they consider playing Aaron Cunningham or Shelley Duncan more at this point? How much can they keep playing Damon before it becomes detrimental not only to the team but to Damon’s confidence?
The Huh?: Lonnie Chisenhall’s Fu-Manchu mustache. It’s totally awesome, but at the same time such a confusing facial hair choice. Why not the handle bar mustache? Or perhaps some Martin Van Buren style mutton chops? Someone needs to get to the bottom of this, ASAP.