CHICAGO: Jason Kipnis is hoping he doesn’t cool off at the plate when the calendar turns.
Kipnis delivered a two-run homer, a single and a walk in the Indians’ 4-3 win over the White Sox on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field to raise his batting average for the month to .419 with 12 doubles, four home runs, 25 RBI and nine steals (in 10 attempts).
“Hopefully this doesn’t stop when June stops,” he said. “I haven’t made any major adjustments. I’m just streaking. This is just a longer streak. But I can go the other way too. I can [have a bad] streak with the best of them.”
Does the same principle apply to teams?
After losing 14 out of 20 to many of the best teams in baseball, the Tribe has been on a run of its own, winning 13 of its past 18, including the first three in this four-game set with the White Sox.
“We’re playing good baseball right now,” Kipnis said. “Our pitching is giving us a chance to win ballgames.”
And the pitchers, of course, gave credit to the hitters.
“There’s no way we can lose any games,” said Saturday’s starter Ubaldo Jimenez. “That’s the mentality we have right now.”
Nick Swisher got the third of three consecutive singles in the eighth to drive in the game winner, after Asdrubal Cabrera and Kipnis set the stage for him with hits of their own.
“We’ve got that never-say-die attitude,” Swisher said.
“That’s the Nick Swisher we have to rely on,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We just have to take care of him.”
Swisher has a balky shoulder that twice has been an issue.
All three hits came off Jesse Crain, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in 31 appearances.
Cabrera got the Tribe on the scoreboard with a leadoff homer in the fourth at a time when the offense was stymied by starter Dylan Axelrod.
Jimenez was hardly efficient, throwing 112 pitches in five innings, but there was a saving grace to his performance: He gave up three runs when it could have been many more.
“You know what,” Francona said, “he threw a lot of pitches; he had a high pitch count, and he didn’t get as deep into the game as we wanted, but he kept us in it.”
Jimenez hasn’t gotten through the sixth inning in any of his past five starts, but he has a 2-1 record in those games with an ERA of 4.13, which isn’t all that bad.
Francona has obviously decided not to let Jimenez bury himself if he doesn’t have his best stuff.
“I felt too good today,” Jimenez said, smiling. “My velocity was up there, and my fastball was running [off the plate] too much. I was missing with my fastball but not by that much.”
Jimenez liked the way his slider was moving, and he was able to command it. His most dangerous moment came in the fifth after he had given up two runs and had the bases loaded with two outs.
“Carlos finally called a slider when it was 3-and-2 with the bases loaded,” Jimenez said. “I was ready.”
He struck out White Sox catcher Tyler Flower to end the inning, which he knew was his last.
The Tribe bullpen took over after that.
Maybe the most notable performance among the relievers was that of Joe Martinez, a veteran right-hander brought from Columbus on Saturday to make sure the bullpen wasn’t overworked after Friday’s doubleheader.
Martinez has pitched in the majors before but not for a while. He worked two innings, gave up two hits and struck out one.
“That was not an easy thing to do,” Francona said. “He came in with the game on the line, and he knew it. He knew he had to pitch, and he did a great job.”
Chris Perez retired the side in order in the ninth to earn his seventh save of the year and first since coming off the disabled list last week.
“He had a very good breaking ball, and he was able to locate his fastball,” Francona said. “I think as he continues to pitch, his velocity will get back up to where it was.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.