MINNEAPOLIS: Jason Kipnis was not in the Indians’ lineup Sunday for the first since July 7.
It was a routine day off from the big-league grind, but for an antsy guy like Kipnis there are problems: Like what is he supposed to do with his time?
“I should plan out what I’m going to do,” he said with a half smile. “I guess it’s a nice break.”
For more than two months, Kipnis provided the power the Tribe was missing from the bats of Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner. At 5-feet-11, 185 pounds, Kipnis doesn’t look like a home-run hitter, and he didn’t have the minor-league resume of a power hitter.
Yet on June 17, he went deep for the 11th time this season.
He hasn’t hit a home run since.
“My job is to be content with going gap to gap,” Kipnis said. “If one goes out, it goes out.”
Tribe manager Manny Acta knew that expectations would soar out of control with Kipnis’ unexpected power surge.
“Things even out,” Acta said. “I don’t think anyone expected him to hit 32 home runs, and that was the pace he was on.”
It took one at-bat to realize that pitchers aren’t going to throw many fastballs past Kipnis. On June 10 in St. Louis, Cardinals closer Jason Motte was pumping 97 and 98 mph fastballs to the plate while trying to preserve a 1-1 tie in the ninth. Kipnis locked onto a 97-mph heater and sent a drive over the wall for a three-run homer that won the game.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but Kipnis hasn’t seen as many fastballs this month.
“If I saw four pitches in an at-bat, maybe two would be fastballs; they wanted to see if I could hit it,” he said. “Now, I’m hoping to see one fastball.”
Maybe that explains Kipnis’ home-run drought, but he hasn’t allowed the strategy to keep him from reaching base. This month he is batting a respectable .272, but having drawn 16 walks, his on-base percentage is an excellent .392. He also has 10 RBI and six doubles in 81 July at-bats.
Kipnis, of course, thinks he can do better.
“I’m putting myself in a little quicksand trying to do too much,” he said.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians.