CLEVELAND: One shift that put the four best hitters in the lineup together at the top, and the Indians haven’t stopped hitting since.

As Jason Kipnis struggled to get going this season, Indians manager Terry Francona decided on May 11 that it was time for a change. Kipnis was pushed down in the lineup and Michael Brantley was thrown into the No. 2 hole, previously occupied by Kipnis.

In effect, it made for a miniature murderers’ row at the top of the Indians lineup, forcing pitchers to have to navigate through Francisco Lindor, Brantley, Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion in succession, arguably the best 1-through-4 of any lineup in baseball.

Since that change, the Indians’ lineup has been clicking on all cylinders, something that was recently felt by the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, both of whom were swept while allowing 50 runs in six games.

“I’m glad they’re on our team  —  that’s all I’ve got to say,” Indians pitcher Adam Plutko said. “Shoot, if you can get through them three times, you had yourself a great day.”

Lindor, leading off, was named the American League Player of the Month in May and entering Monday’s games was hitting .296 with a .928 OPS, and his 151 wRC+ is ninth in the AL for the season. Brantley is hitting .316 with an .871 OPS and has thrived hitting between two Most Valuable Player candidates. On Sunday, Ramirez hit his 23rd home run to pull into a tie for the major league lead. He has a .296 average, a 1.018 OPS and a 171 wRC+, the fourth-best mark in the AL. Encarnacion, as he always has, started the season slowly, but posted a .985 OPS in May and has an .832 OPS in June.

“It’s definitely a great foursome that we have there between Lindor, Brantley, myself and Edwin,” Ramirez said. “I know it’s definitely a challenge for a lot of opposing teams that have to go against us. So, it’s really a pretty thing that we have going on there now.”

Teams have started shying away from Ramirez, who, if not for Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout, might have a case to be the AL MVP front-runner, and instead choosing to pitch to Encarnacion, something of which he’s taken advantage.

“Then when Edwin starts swinging like he can … because they’re going to start walking Jose because he’s so dangerous,” Francona said after Sunday’s game. “When Edwin swings like that, it has to make them think twice. Then when they pitch around somebody, you love to see it hurt the other team. And you can tell Edwin was really bearing down there. But those two play at such a high level every day. They bring it every day.”

Since the change, opposing pitchers haven’t caught a break, and that was by design.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.