Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Lonnie Chisenhall has a night to remember in Texas

lonnie chisenhall big nightRaise your hand if you saw this coming from Lonnie Chisenhall.

Chisenhall entered the season with a lifetime batting average of just .194 against left-handed pitching (and a pedestrian .254 against righties) but something has clicked for the Cleveland Indians’ third baseman this year – in a major way.

Chisenhall has seen his average go up each month of the season, and since he hit .362 in April, that’s saying something. He batted .373 in May and through the first nine days of June he is hitting .452. More importantly, he is ripping left-handed pitching, batting .520 on the season. He may only have 25 at bats against lefties, but that’s still impressive.

His season may have reached its high point Monday night in Texas, as Chisenhall had what may have been the best offensive night in the history of baseball. It was certainly the best in Tribe history.

Chisenhall went 5-for-5 with three home runs and nine RBI. As David Schoenfield points out on ESPN, Chisenhall is in some rare company:

  • He is just the 14th player in Major League history to go 5-for-5 with three home runs.
  • He is one of just five players to go 5-for-5 with three home runs and nine RBI – but none of the other players had a quite the same night at the plate. Fred Lynn went 5-for-6 when he had three homers and 10 RBI in 1975; Gil Hodges was 5-for-6 with four homers and nine RBI in 1950; Josh Hamilton was 5-for-5 with four home runs in 2012, but he only had eight RBI (OK, that’s pretty impressive); and Shawn Green was 6-for-6 with four home runs and seven RBI in 2002. (That’s pretty impressive, too.)
  • He is just the 34th player since 1914 to drive in at least nine runs in a game, and one of only four to have a perfect day at the plate. Joining Chisenhall are Vladimir Guerrero, who went 4-for-4 in 2004; Danny Tartabull, who went 5-for-5 in 1992; and Jim Bottomley, who was 6-for-6 (with 12 RBI) in 1924.
  • He is the first Tribe player to have three home runs in a game since Shin-Soo Choo in 2010, and the 32nd in franchise history to hit three home runs in a game.
  • He tied the franchise record with nine RBI, matching Chris James, who drove in nine against Oakland in 1991.

“I’m enjoying it as much as I can,” Chisenhall said on the team’s website. “I don’t know the history of it – who’s done it in the past. They told me it’s a short list and I’m proud to be any part of a short list.”

While Chisenhall is currently hitting lefties, righties and everything in between, it is unlikely that he can sustain this pace. As Schoenfield points out, Chisenhall is still chasing pitches out of the strike zone at a high pace – 38 percent of the time – his line-drive rate is 28 percent and he’s hitting .395 on fastballs.

Opposing pitchers are going to adjust – Chisenhall will be seeing fewer fastballs – and those line drives are going to start finding gloves more frequently.

But everyone said the same thing back in 1997, when Sandy Alomar had a career year and helped the Indians reach the World Series.

No matter how you look at it, Monday night was a special one for Chisenhall.

And if he can keep it up, this season may still have a few surprises left in it.

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