CLEVELAND -- Because of injuries and stints on the disabled list, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has had to use an outfield by committee over the first half of the 2017 regular season, and despite the changes, the team has a 1.5-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central Division standings.
Of particular importance has been the play of right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall, who has not only produced as an every-day player, but also, shined in the role of pinch hitter, where he has become one of the best in the American League.
“He certainly does a good job of staying ready,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
This season, Chisenhall is four for 14 in pinch-hit appearances with three runs scored, two doubles, two home runs and nine runs batted in. Chisenhall leads the American League in pinch-hit at-bats, doubles, home runs, RBI and runs scored.
Because of a hit from Chisenhall, the Indians added onto a lead with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning of their 5-1 win over the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field Thursday.
Outfielder Michael Brantley got things going with a lead-off double to the wall in right field, and then, came around to score when designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion smoked a broken-bat RBI single to right field.
Encarnacion went from first base to third when third baseman Jose Ramirez smacked a double to right field, and both runners were brought in when Chisenhall, in a pinch-hit role, took a 1-1 pitch from reliever Nick Martinez into right field for a two-run double.
“I see him every (day),” Francona said. “As we get into the game, he’s down there. It’s not like he’s going in cold. I think that helps you mentally.
“He’s always been ready, which is good, but I think he’s in a pretty good place confidence-wise. Even though he didn’t swing the bat great last night, that doesn’t throw him. He’s in a pretty good spot.”
In addition to Chisenhall, the Indians have gotten productivity from rookie center fielder Bradley Zimmer.
In 110 at-bats over 40 games, Zimmer has 32 hits (.291 batting average), including eight doubles and four home runs, 22 runs batted in, 14 runs scored, 12 walks against 32 strikeouts and seven stolen bases. Zimmer has a .366 on-base percentage and .473 slugging percentage.
In the bottom of the third inning of Thursday's win, catcher Yan Gomes led off with a single to center field, and center fielder Bradley Zimmer hustled his way down the line for
an infield hit. Both Gomes and Zimmer moved up a base on a wild pitch from Rangers starter Andrew Cashner.Shortstop Francisco Lindor got the Indians even with an RBI groundout to second base, and after Brantley drew a four-pitch walk, Zimmer slid around a tag attempt on a second wild pitch from Cashner.
“Talk about manufacturing with his legs,” Francona said. “I don’t know how many guys are able to beat that ball out, and then, I don’t know how many guys can score. All the way around, that was just his speed, and at the time of the game, that was a huge run for us.”