KANSAS CITY: All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis is thrilled the Indians have won 9-of-13 games since he came off the disabled list, even though he hasn’t been the star.
Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley have been the Tribe’s most consistent players during the surge — and all season for that matter. While Kipnis works to get his timing back and his swing fine-tuned so he can improve his .250 average, he’s grateful he hasn’t felt the urgency to make something happen.
“It’s been beneficial for me because other guys are playing so well and the team’s doing so well,” Kipnis said Wednesday before the Indians lost to the Kansas City Royals 4-1 at Kauffman Stadium. “It’s taking the pressure off me and allowed me to get back into a groove and help out where I can and do the little things. “If we were struggling, I would [take it] upon myself where I need to get a big hit.”
That’s not to say the return of Kipnis hasn’t helped the Indians turn around a season that on May 1 looked like it was going nowhere. Going 1-for-4 in the finale of the two-game series against the Royals, Kipnis has hit safely in nine consecutive games. He was activated May 28 after being sidelined since April 30 with a strained right oblique.
During his hitting streak, Kipnis has batted .316 with seven RBI, six of those in the past three games. He’s hit .283, all from the cleanup spot, since he returned from the DL.
Kipnis now looks like the player the Indians rewarded with a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension in April.
“Kip’s one of the more reliable players in the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday. “His batting average will be better. He’s a presence right in the middle of the order. I got to see him transform last June when he played his way onto the All-Star team. Now you see the growth.
“The winning last year … it affects a lot of people, but maybe him as much as anybody. Sometimes when you’re a young player you want to feel like you belong in the league and make your place. Now he’s got his contract and he’s still so hungry to win.”
A two-run double by Kipnis in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s loss to the Royals was his first extra-base hit since April 24. But Kipnis doesn’t care where the ball went.
“As long as they’re hits, I’ll take singles all the time,” he said. “It’s nice to get a double in that situation to cut the lead down a little bit.
“The swing’s coming around. Slowly but surely we’ll get back into a high groove here.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.