October 23, 2014

Elyria
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Indians notes: Kipnis catches fire in May

CLEVELAND — May has been very good to Jason Kipnis. In turn, the second baseman, who got off to a slow start to the season, has been very good for the Indians.

Kipnis entered Saturday batting .316 (18-for-57), while hitting safely in 11 of his last 14 games since May 3, to raise his average from .189 to .244. His 13 extra-base hits over the span were tied for the most in the majors through Friday. What’s more, Kipnis entered Saturday leading the majors with 19 RBIs and tied for the American League-lead with six home runs in May.

Manager Terry Francona’s patience through Kipnis’ early struggles have paid off.

“I remember in the beginning when everybody was like, ‘Hey, are you going to move him down in the order?’” Francona said of the club’s second hitter. “You just have to be patient with good players, and it’s paying off in huge dividends. He’s not just getting hits, he’s getting big hits and driving the ball out of the ballpark. He’s running the bases. He’s doing everything.”

Kipnis said he went back to basics to emerge from his season-starting slump.

“We kind of reset the process,” he said. “And I’ve kind of got my swing back right now.”

 

Win some, lose some

Closer Chris Perez took his blown save Saturday in stride. It was the second blown save in eight opportunities for the right-hander, who is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 15 appearances.

Perez has had limited save chances to start the season, but he said rust wasn’t a factor.

“You can’t always make excuses when things don’t go your way,” Perez said. “I made two mistakes. It was just one of those days today. It’s just one blip on the radar.

“I’m not going to change anything. It worked fine for the first month and a half. It’s not going to be the last save I blow.”

Perez’s save percentage since 2011 is 89 percent (81-for-91), which ranks ninth in the majors over the span.

 

Quarter pole

The Indians owned the same record (23-17) through 40 games that they owned in 2012, but they have been a much different team this year.

Cleveland outscored its opponents 197-169, batting .263 as a team over the first 40 games of the season, as opposed to being outscored 176-178 and posting a .246 average in 2012. The Indians hit 55 homers and posted a .457 slugging percentage and .790 OPS, compared to 34 homers, a .384 slugging percentage and .723 OPS last year.

The pitching numbers are more similar, with the Indians owning a 3.92 ERA over the first 40 games, as opposed to 4.01 last year. Cleveland’s pitching staff allowed 47 homers and 145 walks, compared to 31 homers and 154 walks in 2012. The Indians struck out 337 batters, with the opposition hitting .235 in 2013. They struck out 257 and opponents batted .245 last year.

 

Minor details

Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has yet to find his stroke since being demoted to Triple-A Columbus. He entered Saturday batting just .167 (3-for-18) with a homer and two RBIs in four games with the Clippers.

(bullet) Center fielder Tyler Naquin had a productive day in High Class A Carolina’s 7-6 loss to Lynchburg in 11 innings Friday. Naquin, Cleveland’s first-round draft pick last year (15th overall), went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI, three runs and three walks, raising his average to .311 over 40 games.

 

Roundin’ third

The Indians entered Saturday 4-0 in extra-inning games, accounting for the only American League team without a loss. … Today, 1:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WMMS 100.7-FM. Masterson (6-2, 3.14) vs. Hernandez (5-2, 1.53).

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.