Kipnis' success tied to opposite-field prowess
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Jason Kipnis sliced a pitch to the left-field wall at Citi Field during the All-Star Game on Tuesday, the Indians second baseman showed a national audience what Cleveland has witnessed all season long.
Kipnis can send a pitch to the opposite field with the best of them. In his second at-bat of Sunday's game, he knocked a two-run homer off the Twins' Scott Diamond, marking Kipnis' second game in a row with a shot to left field.
"It's kind of a gift," Indians manager Terry Francona said before the game. "I don't know that you can necessarily learn that."
It has been a gift that keeps on giving.
"I was joking around in the cage," Kipnis said, "that I almost don't even know what its like to pull the ball any more. I almost forgot what it feels like."
During Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Twins, the left-handed-hitting Kipnis singled to left field in the fourth inning to snap an 11-batter hitless streak for right-hander Kevin Correia. In the sixth inning, Kipnis slashed a 1-1 offering from Correia into the left-field seats for a two-run home run, which was the 14th shot of the season for the second baseman.
Dating back to May 1, when Kipnis was hitting just .189 on the season, the second baseman hit at a .333 clip (84-for-252) with 36 extra-base hits and 55 RBIs entering Sunday. Since June 1, Kipnis posted a .379 batting average to go along with a 1.076 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Much of Kipnis' production has come on hits to the opposite field.
"I think I'm doing a better job of staying on the ball. I'm letting it travel," Kipnis said. "Even when I'm going opposite-field, I can get too far in front. I'm letting it travel this year, and it's causing more of the success."
Francona said Kipnis can put a backspin on a ball hit to the opposite field with the best of them. The Indians manager mentioned Adrian Gonzalez and Manny Ramirez, both of whom he managed in his days with the Red Sox, as two other hitters with the same skill.
"That's part of his swing. If anything, he'll probably get better," Francona said. "I can't even backspin a golf ball."