CLEVELAND: There’s no way to know whether the Indians’ offense will continue to break opposing pitchers’ hearts by mashing balls over the fence.
But the value of the Tribe’s power cannot be disputed. In winning 10 of the past 11, including a 9-2 decision over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday, the home run ball has been invaluable.
The Indians went deep three more times to run their total to 49, tops in the American League.
Jason Kipnis set the tone in the first inning, when he ripped a two-run blast over the wall in left off Bartolo Colon. Nick Swisher led off the third inning with a drive that cleared the wall in right, and Mark Reynolds hit his 11th home run of the season with a man on base in the fifth.
The drive Kipnis hit traveled to the opposite field, indicating to manager Terry Francona that his second baseman is approaching his at-bats the correct way.
“When you’re able to drive the ball the other way,” he said, “you’re going to handle the inside pitch, too.”
In his past 10 games, Kipnis has emerged from a slump that began in spring training, compiling a batting average of .279 with one double, two triples, four home runs and nine RBI.
Even his outs have been struck with authority, four on line drives and two to deep parts of the outfield.
“I wasn’t going good, and when I did hit the ball hard, they weren’t dropping,” Kipnis said. “Now, things are going well for me.”
But he knows over a 162-game season there will be more than one valley out of which to climb.
“I’m going to go through another slump,” he said. “That’s the way the game is, and I’m kind of streaky. Right now, I feel like I’m putting good swings on the ball, and the results are nice. I’m even making better outs.”
Home runs weren’t the Indians’ only weapon of choice. Kipnis drove in a third run with a sacrifice fly, and Reynolds, Yan Gomes and Asdrubal Cabrera contributed doubles, with Gomes and Cabrera each driving in a run.
The Tribe posted an 8-1 record on the homestand with the offense averaging 6.3 runs per game. The ERA of the starting pitchers during this span was 2.86.
“At the beginning of the year, everybody said starting pitching was our weakness,” Kipnis said. “On this homestand, it’s been our strength. It’s like these guys are competing with each other. We almost don’t need all the runs.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.