In midst of best stretch, Chisenhall cleaning up
Hot-hitting third baseman earns another start in fourth spot in Indians' lineup
BALTIMORE -- For his first three seasons, middling could have been a generous way to describe Lonnie Chisenhall.
The Indians third baseman batted just .244 with a .284 on-base percentage. In 643 at-bats, he had just 60 extra-base hits.
But something has finally clicked. His average is up to .381 entering Saturday, and his on-base-plus-slugging percentage checks in at a whopping 1.006. His 13 doubles are four shy of matching his career best.
"I'm just kind of relaxing and taking what's given to me," Chisenhall said. "Instead of just swinging and hoping something good happens, I have a plan.
"It was a long road to get to where I am now. I'm happy where I'm at."
After hitting a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning to force extra innings on Thursday, Chisenhall clubbed a pair of doubles during the Tribe's 8-4 loss to the Orioles on Friday. Manager Terry Francona rewarded the third baseman with the cleanup spot in the lineup for the second straight day Saturday.
Chisenhall called this current hot streak "the best stretch of 100-plus at-bats" he has had in his career. Since the start of May, in particular, Chisenhall has elevated his play. He's batting .397 with a 1.090 OPS and has hit both of his home runs during the month.
"It's amazing what you see when guys get confident, when they start to understand what they're doing," Francona said after Friday's loss. "He started the year with a high batting average, hitting a lot of singles and doubles. Now he's starting to drive the ball."
Down the stretch in 2013, Chisenhall showed signs of becoming the player that he has been thus far this season. He batted .270 in September with a .920 OPS and three home runs.
That all led up to his playoff debut. The Indians lost in the American League Wild Card game to the Rays, but Chisenhall went 3-for-4.
"He's got a great attitude, great work ethic and he's really coming into his own," Jason Giambi said on Friday. "He was a great Minor League player, and I think last year, he just got his feet wet."
It wasn't until the past few days, though, that Francona showed the confidence in Chisenhall to consistently bat him fourth in the order; most of his starts this season have come in the ninth spot. Saturday marked just his fourth start of the season in the cleanup spot, where he has posted a 1.333 OPS in 15 at-bats.
"It's just one of those times where it feels like every time you put a swing on the ball, something good happens." Chisenhall said. "So you've just got to take advantage of that and try to ride that wave as long as possible."