CLEVELAND -- David Price tugged at his right sleeve and wiped away sweat from his face. As the Red Sox's ace waited for the right to continue his outing, Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall hustled around the bases. Unlike a usual home run trot, there was excitement in Chisenhall's steps.On any
CLEVELAND -- David Price tugged at his right sleeve and wiped away sweat from his face. As the Red Sox's ace waited for the right to continue his outing, Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall hustled around the bases. Unlike a usual home run trot, there was excitement in Chisenhall's steps.
On any other day, Chisenhall might not have been in the starting lineup. In Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday, he was trusted with a place among the local nine, and he repaid manager Terry Francona's trust with a game-altering, and potentially series-changing, blast that sparked a 6-0 win at Progressive Field.
Of course Chisenhall homered. Two games into this series, Francona can seemingly do no wrong.
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"He's been pushing the right buttons," second baseman Jason Kipnis said.
The next stop is Game 3 at Fenway Park on Monday (6 p.m. ET on TBS), where the Red Sox -- who entered as the overwhelming favorites to win this series, according the postseason prognosticators -- will try to dig out of an 0-2 hole. Much of the credit is due to Francona, whose savvy decision-making has helped the Indians earn two remarkable wins.
In Game 1 on Thursday night, Francona's creative handling of the bullpen -- highlighted by bringing leverage weapon Andrew Miller in during the fifth inning -- set up a dramatic 5-4 victory. In Game 2, Francona's decision to hold ace Corey Kluber back one day paid off with seven shutout innings. And, the manager's move to put Chisenhall in the lineup against the lefty netted a stadium-shaking homer.
Francona handled the early success in his typical self-deprecating fashion.
"Sometimes," he said, "good players make you look smarter than you probably are."
The game's lineup sheet was taped to a blue-painted wall around the corner of the home clubhouse prior to Friday's game. Chisenhall's inclusion -- in right field and in the eighth spot -- immediately jumped out, given that the left-handed Price was on the mound. Chisenhall has been a productive hitter all season long, but only 12 percent of his plate appearances came against southpaws.
During the regular season, Chisenhall hit .217 with a .642 OPS against lefties, compared to a .295 average and .784 OPS against right-handers. While Francona has never treated Chisenhall as a strict platoon player, he has maximized the outfielder's production by picking his spots.
Francona said there were multiple factors at play in his decision to give Chisenhall the nod.
First and foremost, Francona wanted the best defensive alignment possible behind Kluber, and Chisenhall has developed into an above-average right fielder. Next, was Chisenhall's success (albeit in a small sample size) against Price. He already had one career homer off the lefty and boasted a .364 average in 11 at-bats. Beyond that, Francona wanted to balance out his batting order, which had six righties (including the switch-hitters).
"He does a great job of putting us in the best situations possible," Chisenhall said. "I've benefited from it -- tonight and in the past. I think I have a handful of at-bats against Price in the past, but tonight [Francona] wanted the defense out there. So, anything I contributed was going to be positive."
The offensive bonus arrived with one out in the second inning.
Carlos Santana got things rolling with a shattered-bat single to left field and Jose Ramirez -- amidst chants of "Jose! Jose-Jose-Jose!" -- legged out an infield single that bounced just beyond the mound. Brandon Guyer, whose specialty is tormenting left-handed pitchers -- dropped a Price pitch into shallow left-center for a single that scored Santana to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead.
That set things up for Chisenhall, who got a 2-1 fastball over the inside portion of the plate. The lefty-swinging Chisenhall tucked his arms in and yanked a low liner down the right-field line with an exit velocity of 106 mph, per Statcast™. The baseball ricocheted off an electrical box just above the wall and shot back into the outfield, where Mookie Betts picked it up.
Right-field umpire Brian Knight signaled it was a home run. Chisenhall let out a shout and raised a fist as he rounded first base. A sea of red rally towels waved and the Progressive Field crowd roared. Chisenhall got the job done, but Francona put him in the batter's box.
"I don't remember too much running around the bases," Chisenhall said with a smile. "I remember seeing it go out and I knew it was a home run, so I slowed down pretty quickly. It was a quick run around the bases."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.