CLEVELAND -- After playing from behind for almost the entire series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cleveland Indians got an early lead and never relinquished it in an afternoon series finale at Progressive Field Thursday.
With five RBI from Lonnie Chisenhall, a mid-game substitution, and key plays defensively, the Indians (32-31) fought their way to a 12-5 victory over the Dodgers (41-26) and got back above the .500 mark before heading to Minnesota for a four-game series with the American League Central Division-leading Twins at Target Field.
The Indians were two games in back of the Twins for the top spot in the Central Division at the start of Thursday’s action.
With hustle plays and plate discipline, the Indians got three runs in the bottom of the first inning off of Dodgers starter Rich Hill.
The Indians started the game with three straight singles to center field off the bats of shortstop Francisco Lindor, left fielder Daniel Robertson and third baseman Jose Ramirez. Ramirez’s single to center field brought around Lindor, and both he and Robertson advanced an additional base on the throw.
Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and they remained loaded after a fielder’s choice from right fielder Austin Jackson. Catcher Roberto Perez drove in a run when he took four straight pitches out of the strike zone after looking at a pair of strikes to start the at-bat.
Then, the Indians scored their third run of the game when center fielder Bradley Zimmer legged out an infield single and brought home Encarnacion.
The Indians increased their lead over the Dodgers to 5-0 with two runs in the bottom of the second inning.
Robertson started the rally with a one-out single to left field, and came around to score on Ramirez’s RBI double to right-center field. After Ramirez was caught stealing on a 2-2 pitch from Hill, Encarnacion swatted his team-leading 13th round-tripper of the season onto the Home Run Porch in left field.
Although the Indians jumped out to a quick lead, the Dodgers made it a one-run game over their next two at-bats.
The Dodgers got on the scoreboard with a lead-off solo home run from first baseman Cody Bellinger in the top of the fourth inning.
Then, in the fifth, the Dodgers got a run on back-to-back doubles from center fielder Joc Pederson and right fielder Yasiel Puig. Left fielder Chris Taylor provided the big hit of the inning when he belted a 1-1 pitch from Indians starter Josh Tomlin over the wall in center field for his eighth homer of the year.
Although the Dodgers erased almost all of Cleveland’s lead, the Indians had an answer in their half of the fifth inning and never let up.
Encarnacion began the rally with a walk, and first baseman Carlos Santana kept things going with a single to center field. Then, on a 1-0 pitch from reliever Ross Stripling, Chisenhall smoked a three-run home run into the seats in right field.
Chisenhall’s eighth home run of the year gave the Indians an 8-4 lead over the Dodgers.
The Dodgers threatened to answer against reliever Nick Goody in the top of the sixth inning with a lead-off double from catcher Austin Barnes, which third baseman Logan Forsythe followed up with a walk, but Pederson lined out to center field, and Zimmer relayed a throw to second base to double off Barnes.
After the lift from the defense, the Indians’ offense tacked on three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, which pushed the advantage out to 11-4, and all of their productivity came with two outs against Stripling.
Ramirez ignited the burst with a single to center field, and then, went first-to-third on Encarnacion’s single to left-center field. After Santana worked a walk, Chisenhall singled to right field and plated both Ramirez and Encarnacion.
One batter later, Santana came in on Perez’s single to shallow center field.
For good measure, the Indians answered L.A.’s run in the top of the seventh inning when second baseman Erik Gonzalez blasted his first career home run in Major League Baseball just over the 19-foot-wall in left field off of Dodgers reliever Chris Hatcher.
Over five innings of work, Tomlin surrendered seven hits, two walks and four earned runs, but limited the damage early in the game with seven strikeouts on the way to his fourth victory of the season.
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