In case you have been living under a rock and didn’t know, Jason Kipnis is from Chicago. He’s a North Side kid from the suburb of Northbrook, which is Cubs country. He never had an affinity for the White Sox growing up, and it seems that he has kept that same attitude towards them as an adult.
The 25-year-old second baseman has been on an absolute tear of late, and he took out any frustrations from a slow start on the South Side nine, leading the Indians to a 7-5 win while taking yet another road series against a division opponent. Overall, it was the Tribe’s fourth consecutive series win away from home, the first time the team has done so to start a season since 1961.
Kipnis owned the series with six hits and five RBI. But it was last night’s game where he truly took command.
The start of the game was delayed for 19 minutes strangely without a drop of raining falling. A storm that was expected to come through never did. The Tribe offense got things started in the second with more two-out lightning. Michael Brantley beat out an infield single and advanced to second when Sox starter John Danks threw the ball away trying to make the out. What happened next was something we haven’t seen at all this season. Something we all have been waiting for. Yes, it actually happened.
Casey Kotchman got a two-out RBI single to put the Tribe on top 1-0! It was his first hit this season with runners in scoring position. He’s now a robust 1-15.
Then in the third, we saw what the present and future of the Tribe’s top of the order can do. “The General” Johnny Damon, DH’ing with Travis Hafner getting a well deserved night off against the lefty Danks, laced a line drive double to right field. Kipnis followed with a deep fly to center field which got over the head of Alejandro De Aza. He would leg it out for an RBI triple. Asdrubal Cabrera, now settled in the three spot, singled Kipnis in and the Tribe led 3-0.
Tribe ace Justin Masterson was cruising with that three-run lead until the fifth inning when he walked Kosuke Fukudome on four pitches and then watched as Gordon Beckham beat him with a bunt single. Eduardo Escobar bunted both into scoring position. Then De Aza, who turns into Wade Boggs when he sees the Indians, singled in Fukudome and Beckham. Suddenly it was a one-run game.
It took one whole batter for the Tribe to strike back.
Cabrera, who like Kipnis is really in a groove, took Danks deep to left for his third homer of the season. After another two-hit night, Asdrubal is now hitting .302. The Sox got that run right back thanks to a two-out RBI single from Alex Rios. 4-3 was as close as the White Sox would get after Masterson came back with a big two-out K of Beckham with the tying run on second.
Sox Manager let Danks come out for the seventh with three lefties due up for the Tribe. With one out, Kotchman got his second hit of the game (yes, this did happen!). Hannahan followed with a sharp single to center to put two on. AfterDamon lined out to second, Kipnis stepped back into the spotlight. In front of family and friends, he put the dagger in the Sox comeback hopes with a three-run blast to right.
“I had confidence in myself,” Kipnis said. “I knew I didn’t come out of the gates like I wanted to. I was still having good at-bats and had the right approach.
Over the past week, Kipnis is hitting .417 (10-24) with a homer and six RBIs. His 17 RBI is tops on the Tribe and his batting average has jumped 60 points in the last 10 games (from .232 to .292).
“He’s going to be a very good player for us,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “That’s why we feel like our offense is going to be better than last year. Having him full time out there is going to help us.”
With a three-game series against the tough Texas Rangers approaching, Acta did his best to avoid using his two top guns in the pen, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez in this one. Both had pitched the night before. He turned the four-run lead over to Tony Sipp and Joe Smith in the seventh after Masterson allowed two hits with one out. Sipp got the one man he faced, Adam Dunn, and Smith got AJ Pierzynski to pop up after walking Paul Konerko on a pitch Smith thought was strike three. The side-arming pitched a scoreless eighth as well and Acta went to veteran Dan Wheeler for the ninth.
If you want to avoid using your closer, going to Wheeler is probably not the best play. Acta got burned and was forced to go to Pure Rage after Wheeler gave up a single to De Aza and a absolute bomb of a homer to Dunn. With the Indians going to be needing a spot starter for Monday’s day/night doubleheader against the White Sox in Cleveland, someone is going to have to go. If Wheeler isn’t the guy, I will be shocked. He can be DFA’d and replaced by either Jeremy Accardo (2.63 ERA in AAA), Chris Ray (2.63 ERA), CC Lee (2.57 ERA), or Frank Herrmann (4.40 ERA).
Wheeler’s two earned runs ended a streak of 17 and two-thirds of scoreless work by the Bullpen Mafia.
Perez didn’t have much time to get warm, and it showed when he walked the first batter he faced, Konerko. But he reared back and K’d Pierzynski looking on a perfect 3-2 pitch. Pierzynski didn’t like the call, but it was the same low pitch that had been called all night by home plate umpire Eric Cooper. The game ended on an Rios groundout where Perez showed his usual excitement. Rios didn’t like it (more on this from Scott later today), but he had to live with it as the Tribe took home the W and the series.
Strangely, the Tribe is now 9-3 away from home and just 4-7 at Progressive Field.
The big series with the AL West leading Rangers starts tonight. Jeanmar Gomez (1-1, 2.35 ERA) will take the mound for the Indians. Texas counters with right-hander Colby Lewis (3-0, 1.93 ERA).
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)