Chisenhall puts himself in the right spot
First outfielder to record three assists in one game since '07
CLEVELAND -- Lonnie Chisenhall followed his throw from right field and began running in. As he closed in on the infield dirt during the second inning on Thursday night, a rundown play developed right in front of him between first and second base.
Chisenhall -- the former third baseman turned right fielder -- decided to get involved.
"I didn't think I was going to know my way around it," Chisenhall joked after playing a major role in Cleveland's 7-5 victory over the Tigers. "But, it was a good time to crash there."
Chisenhall's awareness on the play led to a complicated double play -- one in which he helped record both outs -- and promptly ended a rally for Detroit. Later, Chisenhall threw out a runner at home plate, resulting in three outfield assists. He also made a pair of impressive running catches in opposite directions in the outfield.
Chisenhall became the first Indians outfielder since May 21, 1981 (Rick Manning) to have three outfield assists in one game, and the first Major Leaguer to do so since May 5, 2007 (Kansas City's Mark Teahen).
In a back-and-forth affair at Progressive Field, Chisenhall was seemingly in the middle of everything, putting his progress as an outfielder on full display. His timing could not have more impeccable, either, considering Indians manager Terry Francona was singing Chisenhall's praises as a right fielder hours before Thursday's game.
"Lonnie in right has been really good, probably more than you could rightfully expect," Francona said before the game. "I think he's turned himself into probably one of the better right fielders in the game."
Albeit in an abbreviated sample of innings, the advanced metrics support that claim by Francona. Entering Thursday's game, Chisehall's 41.1 UZR/150 ranked first in the Majors among the 49 right fielders with at least 200 innings. Among American League right fielders, Chisenhall was tied with Boston's Rusney Castillo with seven Defensive Runs Saved.
While he was down in Triple-A earlier this season, Chisenhall went to the Indians and offered to try his hand in the outfield, given rookie Giovanny Urshela's emergence as Cleveland's everyday third baseman. The Indians allowed the experiment and brought Chisenhall back to the Majors as a right fielder in late July. The results since then have been astonishing.
"I knew he had it in him," Indians left fielder Michael Brantley said. "Every spring we'd go out to right field and we'd shag fly balls in right field, and kind of play around and throw guys out at third -- just playing around. The effort and the work that he's put in each and every day to get better out there, and the questions that he's asking, he's learning on the fly in the Major Leagues, which isn't easy. And he's doing a phenomenal job."
With one out and runners on first and second base in the second, Detroit's Anthony Gose sent a pitch from Danny Salazar into right field. Chisenhall gloved the ball and fired toward the plate, where James McCann scored easily. First baseman Carlos Santana cut off the throw and relayed it to shortstop Francisco Lindor, catching Gose in a rundown.
As second baseman Jose Ramirez received a throw from Lindor, Chisenhall ran in front of second base, caught the next throw and applied the tag on Gose for the out. Chisenhall then threw to catcher Yan Gomes, because Andrew Romine was attempting to score. Romine was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned after a replay review showed Gomes tagged the runner in time.
"He's not even really supposed to be there," Brantley said of Chisenhall. "He followed his throw, ran in, and he was able to make that play. Huge play at the time."
The play was officially ruled a 9-3-6-4-9-2 double play, which made Chisenhall laugh.
"It was pretty neat to see all those numbers up there," he said. "It was crazy. That was pretty cool."
In the fourth inning, Chisenhall chased down a deep fly ball off the bat of Victor Martinez in right-center field, covering 66.6 feet with a route efficiency of 95.5 percent, according to Statcast™. In the fifth, a fly ball from Ian Kinsler took Chisenhall to the foul line in right, where he ran down the ball. In the seventh inning, Chisenhall threw out Gose at home plate when he tried to score from second on a single to right from Kinsler.
All in a day's work.
"What'd he have, 19 assists tonight?" Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin quipped.
Chisenhall may have looked like he missed the infield in the second inning, but he is having a good time with his transition to right.
"So far, so good," Chisenhall said. "Fortunately, I've been able to help the pitchers out a little bit and I like throwing the ball, too. I always have a smile when I get to let one go. It's been great out there, a good experience so far, and I look forward to going out there more."