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Home run power push Tribe past Royals, 4-3

Brantley, Kipnis lead charge offensively, as McAllister notches third straight win

Home run power push Tribe past Royals, 4-3
Michael Brantley launches a two-run homer off Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie in the fourth inning.
April 22, 2014
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CLEVELAND—Any game can get a little nutty.

The Indians (9-10) used the long ball and a bushy-tailed friend to push past divisional rival Kansas City Royals Monday, holding onto a 4-3 victory. Offensively, the club banged out four runs on 11 hits to take the first game of a four-game series with K.C.

But before either team would score, a squirrel found its way on the field in the second inning, causing play to briefly hault as grounds crew chased the creature out of the ballpark.

Maybe the "rally squirrel" was just trying to show the Tribe a way to go home. Either way, it gave Cleveland life shortly thereafter.

For the second straight game, the Indians offense jumped out to the early lead. With Jason Kipnis on second after a leadoff double, left fielder Michael Brantley continued his hot tear at the plate, slugging a two-run homer off Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie (2-1, 4.68 ERA) to give Cleveland a two run lead in the the fourth.

Brantley now leads the team with four homers and 18 RBI through the first 19 games of the season.

Despite a two-run cushion, Kansas City stormed back with three runs a half inning later in the fifth against Indians starter Zach McAllister (3-0, 2.26 ERA). Shortstop Alcides Escobar lined an RBI double that fell out of the glove of center fielder Michael Bourn to give the Royals their first run of the contest.

Jerrod Dyson followed with a sacrifice bunt, but advanced to second on a throwing error by McAllister before Omar Infante gave K.C. the lead on a RBI base-hit one batter later.

"Anytime they give us runs, you want to have a shutdown inning," McAllister said. "To give up three there was pretty frustrating."

The Tribe starter came into the ballgame having allowed just four runs the entire season.

"We put ourselves in kind of a predicament tonight with some miscues," manager Terry Francona said. "But I think we're a better defensive team than we showed. Obviously the cleaner we play it enhances our chances of winning."

In the 42 innings the Indians have scored in this season, they have allowed opponents to score the half inning later 20 times.

"We certainly need to do better," Francona said. "I think every game is different. When you score, the next inning is really important to shut down that inning. I don't get discouraged during a game though, not when we're in it."

Offensively, Cleveland did not let it discourage them either, as they answered with one swing of the bat in the home half of the sixth. A leadoff double by Nick Swisher proved valuable, as Kipnis launched his second homer of the season off Guthrie, giving the Tribe a one-run lead they wouldn't waiver.

"The middle of the lineup was really doing a lot of damage today," Swisher said. Everyone was kind of clicking on all cylinders."

Hitters two through five in the lineup (Swisher, Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Brantley) combined to go 7-for-16 (.438) with four doubles, two homers and four RBI.

That would be all the scoring McAllister would need, as the right-hander logged six strong innings picking up his third straight victory.

"He didn't let anything rattle him, he continued to execute pitches and stay strong," Francona said.

Leading the rotation in wins, McAllister improves to 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA his last 19.2 innings of work.

"He feels good about himself and he should," Francona said. "This is a young kid that is enjoying the responsibility and challenges of getting better. He desperately wants to be good."

Relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Cody Allen each tossed a scoreless inning in relief of McAllister before closer John Axford notched his league leading seventh save with a quiet ninth.

Signed to a 1-year, $4 million contract this winter, Axford's seven saves are tops in the American League.

"It's definitely better than what I felt last year," the Tribe closer said. "Going into spring training and coming into the season, I really wanted to focus on making sure I got off to a good start and play to my best capability."

Up next for Indians: The Wahoo's will try and make it three straight when they battle Kansas City Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. In search of his first win, right-hander Danny Salazar (0-2, 7.71 ERA) gets the nod against Royals ace James Shields (1-2, 2.00 ERA).

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

User Comments

Spermie31
April 22, 2014 - 3:01 PM EDT
Oh, don't worry, you've cost this site three subscriptions I know of. Perhaps the owner should quad charge you from year to year. Such a misguided idiot...
Hermie13
April 22, 2014 - 1:26 PM EDT
While this cult following I seem to have is flattering, it's really not needed ;)
Germie
April 22, 2014 - 1:08 PM EDT
If we all wish hard enough, and perhaps click our heels three times and say "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," could we get that dipshit Hermie to go back to trolling Cleveland.com with the rest of the idgits?

Such a douche.

If ever there was a guy I'd love to see demoted to the second or third team, it's this guy.

Jack.

Ass.
Hermie13
April 22, 2014 - 1:07 PM EDT
I definitely am enjoying what we've seen from Brantley so far too. Just like I'm enjoying what we've seen from Chiz....but that .600 BABIP is obviously gonna come down; Chiz won't be a .400 hitter all year. HR/FB ratio is similar to BABIP...a big spike in small samples usually means some regression is in order. Brantley has done this before too, showing good power for a month (though so far this is definitely his best power month).


IMO, the best part of Brantley's game this year is the improved walk rate so far, not the long balls (though obviously liking that too). Only once in his career has his walk rate been over 7% (2012, his best offensive year)...this year he's at 10%. I'm not sold he'll maintain that but if he can keep it around where it was in 2012 (around 9%) then we got ourselves a hitter. Really felt Brantley took an overall step backwards last year offensively, OBP dropped a good amount despite the batting average staying the same. I'll take the walks/OBP over the bump in power from Brantley (though both are obviously great too).
Walter
April 22, 2014 - 12:06 PM EDT
I never said that Brantley is going to be 25 hr year in year out. I do believe in simply math if Brantley hits 4 hrs a month he would end up around 25 hr for the year. A career year for him. Even he avg just 2hrs per month he ends up near 15 which still is a career year for him in homers.

Using his HR/FB rate 6.8% for 2013 produced 10 hrs

for 18 games his HR/FB rate is 22.2% which produced 4hrs

If we cut his current rate in half to 11.1% which would put him in the range of hitting 20 hrs for the season, Using the numbers I believe that Brantley hitting 20 hrs is good chance of becoming reality.

Again I do not know Brantley will hit 20 homers, but I am going to enjoy to see if he does.

Hermie13
April 22, 2014 - 10:32 AM EDT
@Walter

How was I being negative at all here? Simply pointing out a big outlier in Brantley's numbers. His highest HR/FB ratio in his career was the 6.8% he posted last year. This year he's currently at 22.2%. Power can develop late...not disagreeing there. But expecting nearly a quarter of the fly balls he hits to leave the yard is a bit extreme. Last year only 5 guys in all of baseball had a HR/FB ratio greater than 22%....they were: Chris Davis, Pedro Alvarez, Miguel Cabrera, Adam Dunn, and Paul Goldschmidt. I'm not being negative here, just realistic...Brantley will never be in the same category with those five in regards to power. Just not happening.



Also, still don't see the Beltran comp at all though to each their own I guess. Have said for years he is more like Carl Crawford and I stand by that. Tweener LF/CFer with speed (though not as much as Crawford), the ability to hit anywhere from 1-6 in the lineup, and ability to generate some pop (I'm one of those 10-15 HR people with him). Crawford never hit 20 HRs but did settle in for the most part with a respectable .150-.160ish ISO. Brantley has never cracked .120 but is currently over .220 (thanks to that unsustainable HR/FB ratio)....that won't continue but definitely showing the pop to be in Crawford territory. And being Crawford is not a bad thing at all (well the Rays-version at least)...


Again, love what we're seeing from Brantley. Not being 'negative', just realistic. Would love to be wrong and have Brantley become a 25 HR guy year in and year out...
Walter
April 22, 2014 - 10:05 AM EDT
Hermie

Brantley is sitting at 4 hrs. There is 6 months to the baseball season.. By using simple math that I was taught in grade school is 4 X 6 = 24. Yes there is a chance that Brantley can hit in range of 15-25 hrs this year. I did not have to use his HR/FA rate to come to that conclusion.

Do I think he will hit 20 - 25 HR? I dont know, but I am willing to enjoy the ride of the season to find out. Comparing Brantley to Cabrera is a unnecessary cheap shot. There know way to know that Brantley would be come Cabrera if he hits his career high in home runs.

Hermie... stop being so negative. Baseball is like living your life. There up/downs. There great joy and sorrow. There achievements and disappointments. Stop being consumed 100% in the numbers.

I enjoy baseball by watching, listening and reading. That is where I get my knowledge and understanding of the game. I'm not obsessed with following the numbers.
GSon
April 22, 2014 - 10:04 AM EDT
Musings on a successful night at the corner of Ontario and Carnegie...

Defensively... Swisher was as bad as it gets.. He fell victim to stretching to make the heroic play on throws that, at best, were in the vicinity of first base. The Kipnis throw.. was a good play.. the other two throws that sailed into the stands (for errors).. he should have gotten off the bag and caught the damn ball!!.. The Bourn non-catch in CF.. was horrendous.. NO EXCUSE for that.. Ball in glove.. glove closes.. that ball hit the bottom of the pocket and bounced out like a billiard ball hitting a bumper...Just horrible..

The Ax-Man = boring....

Zack Attacked the hitters again..no futzing around.. right at em..with hard stuff on the corners.. If his defense wasn't so completely inept.. he could have pitched well into the 7th inning..

Lonnie to the cleanup spot.. he is just making solid contact. He still has pitch recognition problems, but his hand eye coordination is allowing him to get the sweet part of the bat on the ball..keep him there..don't fix what aint broken...

Dr Smooth..about a year ago..I comp'd Dr Smooth to Carlos Beltran.. of course, the forum world immediately let me know that the power was missing and Michael would never be able to hit more than 10 to 15 homers..(now amended up 10..smh). Everyone who posts on sight like IBI are all long time/die hard baseball fanatics.. We all know that power is one of the last tools to develop with players, typically in their 26 to 29th years.. It's Dr Smooth's time.. He's been incredible in the field (in spite of the idiot UZR numbers) and has been driving the ball.. How great can he become?..we'll see.. He's going to be here for a LONG time...

Today's matchup.. has Danny Salazar facing Big Game James Shields..I'd love to see Danny extend his first four innings of his last start (3 hits, three K's no walks, one earned run) two more innings.. He's building towards a good outing.. Let's see if he can get a quality start completed tonight...

Thoughts...
troy
April 22, 2014 - 9:23 AM EDT
As others mentioned power is the last tool to develop. Hopefully Brantley takes the same path as former yankee Bernie Williams
Hermie13
April 22, 2014 - 9:16 AM EDT
Never say never, but think Brantley as a 20-25 HR guy is still a stretch. May hit it once like Asdrubal did but wouldn't expect it out of him. His HR/FB rate is totally out of the norm right now. Cabrera saw a big jump in his and then it settled back down a bit as did his HR total.
Rich
April 22, 2014 - 8:25 AM EDT
The interesting thing about Brantley is that he'll get even more RBI opportunites once Swisher and Kipnis start hitting in the 2 and 3 spots.

And it looks like that's starting to happen. Kipnis is over .300 in his last six games. Swisher hit two balls off the centerfield wall yesterday - evidence that he is not overswinging and just trying to take the ball up the middle.

The defense is still way below average as the errors continue t pile up. They got away with it yesterday due to great pitching and the home runs, but they need to tighten up the defense.

I've never been so disappointed by a player defensively than Michael Bourn. He was advertised as a Gold Glove centerfielder, but he's not even average. The ball that popped out of his glove last night and led to the Royals' 3-run inning reminded me of the ball that popped out of his glove and over the fence last year to give Miquel Cabrera a gift home run.
Matthew
April 22, 2014 - 8:06 AM EDT
In 2012, Brantley hit his 4th homer of the season on July 14. Last year, on June 19. This year, April 21. He still hasn't turned 27, and many players experience a significant power increase in their age 26-28 seasons. The power surge this spring might be a fluke, but if it's even somewhat for real (i.e., if Brantley becomes a 20-25 HR guy) we'll have a real stud locked up for the next 5 seasons.
Steve
April 22, 2014 - 8:04 AM EDT
I think the squirrel is really Joe Boo in his after life.
Great to see another divisional win.

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