CLEVELAND: It’s a mistake to make light of little hits. Little hits can transform nothing innings into scoring innings.
The Indians’ 8-5 win over the Royals on Monday at Progressive Field was a triumph of the importance of little hits, without taking anything away from Lonnie Chisenhall’s big hit, a third-inning home run in his first major-league at-bat of the season.
But it was the little hits that kept the offense humming.
• Jose Lopez’s high bouncer to third drove in a run and kept the five-run, third-inning rally alive for Casey Kotchman, who drove in the final run with a conventional single.
• Jason’s Kipnis’ bunt single and steal of second in the fifth set the stage for Lopez to drive him in with a line-drive hit, just when Kansas City had cut its deficit to one run.
• Rookie shortstop Juan Diaz beat out a hit to the second baseman in the seventh and eventually scored on Michael Brantley’s bloop single to center: a little hit with loft.
All of these little hits helped snap a three-game (that is, 0-for-Chicago) losing streak and kept the Indians in first place.
“It was important to cut the losing streak,” manager Manny Acta said.
Added closer Chris Perez, who earned his 17th save: “We needed this. No offense to the Royals, but we can win these games [against them].”
Despite the losses of Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Monday, Jack Hannahan, the Tribe has scored 24 runs in the past four games, yet has won only once.
“They [the offense] didn’t lose that series against the White Sox,” Perez said. “That was on us, the pitching staff.”
One or more of the Tribe’s injured batsmen might be back in a day or two, but the current depleted lineup has more than done its job in their absence.
“You’ve got to give it to these guys,” Acta said. “If someone had told me we would score 16 runs [in Chicago], I would have said we won the series. But we didn’t get the pitching. Then today, the offense kept right on going.”
In addition to hitting a home run off starter Nathan Adcock (0-3, 3.74 ERA), Chisenhall singled in the sixth.
“We always talked about Lonnie as the third baseman of the future, but we hadn’t seen him go down and dominate,” Acta said. “Then this year, he was hitting .324 with four home runs and 17 RBI. That’s what we wanted to see. So it’s been exciting to see what he’s done down there” with the Columbus Clippers.
Chisenhall came to spring training knowing that he could not beat out Hannahan for the third-base job.
“I told him there will come a point when you are the everyday guy for us,” Acta said. “But only you can make it happen. You won’t have to come into my office to come and go.”
Chisenhall was removed from Columbus’ game with Buffalo on Sunday but wasn’t told he had been summoned to Cleveland until after the game.
“I wasn’t really worried about it,” he said, referring to getting another chance. “But this is a way to avoid a nice little road trip.”
Chisenhall was being facetious about the Clippers’ current 12-gamer.
“Eventually, I don’t want to be the future third baseman,” he said. “So today was a nice way to start and leave a good taste in everybody’s mouth.”
Kipnis was another major contributor to the offense. In addition to the bunt hit, he singled home two runs in the third and singled again in the seventh. In the past four games, he is 9-for-16 with two homers, six RBI and four runs. Lopez had two hits and three RBI.
Josh Tomlin made his first start after coming off the disabled list because of a sore wrist. He gave up four runs and four hits in five innings, but he was more proficient than those numbers would indicate.
However, he gave up a home run to Eric Hosmer after walking Jeff Francoeur in the second and allowed a solo homer to Brayan Pena in the fifth. Getting dinged by the long ball is one of the hazards of throwing lots of strikes.
“Tomlin (2-2, 4.99 ERA) did a very nice job,” Acta said. “He gave up a couple of home runs, but he also threw 14-of-20 first-pitch strikes.”
Most important for Tomlin, nothing hurt.
“I probably wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be,” he said. “But I had no pain in my wrist or elbow.”
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.