Chisenhall answers call vs. lefty in finale
CLEVELAND -- Lonnie Chisenhall is not sure exactly how Indians manager Terry Francona determines which games the right fielder will start against a left-handed pitcher. Most often, Chisenhall is left on the bench. Then, there are days like Sunday, when he gets the nod.
"He's got a lot of sheets of paper over there," Chisenhall quipped after the Tribe's 6-3 win over the White Sox.
In the finale of a three-game series against the White Sox, Francona looked the data over and felt facing lefty John Danks was an opportunistic scenario for Chisenhall. The Indians outfielder responded with a two-run home run in the second inning, helping power Cleveland to another win as it tries to chase down an American League Wild Card spot.
The win, in which Chisenhall collected a pair of extra-base hits and drove in three runs, kept the Tribe four games back of Houston for the AL's second Wild Card seed. Over the past two months, the Indians have steadily chipped away at their deficit in the standings, and that stretch has come in the time since Chisenhall was promoted from Triple-A Columbus.
Chisenhall's successful move from third base to right field has been the biggest focus since his return to Cleveland, but he has also more than held his own in the batter's box. Much of his success at the plate can be attributed to the fact that Francona has limited Chisenhall mostly to facing right-handers, while picking spots to use him against lefties.
"He's a hard guy to figure out sometimes," Francona said. "I don't think he needs to be a straight platoon, because he does handle certain lefties. That's why we try to use some judgement there, because I think you can almost do a disservice by not playing him against some lefties."
To Francona's point, Chisenhall has hit .333 (4-for-12) against left-handers since his July 30 promotion, helping boost his overall average to .319 in the 119 at-bats over that time period. Similarly, the left-handed-swinging Chisenhall hit .349 in 68 at-bats against lefties in the first four months last year, when he hit .307 overall heading into August.
Chisenhall has labored at times when used as an everyday player against both righties and lefties. Once he earned the regular job last year, he hit .233 over the final two months and .217 against lefties in that stretch in '14. This season, Chisenhall opened the season as the starting third baseman, but hit .209 in 177 at-bats before being sent back to Triple-A.
"I know he's putting everybody in the best matchup possible to succeed," Chisenhall said. "That's what I attribute [my success] to. They do a great job in their analytics department. Obviously, today was a good matchup for me and it worked out."
On Saturday night, Francona went over the lineup with bench coach Brad Mills, and they liked the potential of having Chisenhall face Danks. While seven at-bats is hardly a large sample, Chisenhall had a .571 average in his careeer against the Chicago lefty. After Sunday's showing, he is now 5-for-9 against Danks.
"He had had some success off Danks before, so I thought it was a good day for him to play," Francona said. "Shoot, he jumped on the first fastball, so that really gave us a lift. I just think, every once in a while, facing a guy like that is probably good for him, too, besides the fact that he helped us win the game."