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."
Indians offer perspective of facing Ubaldo
BALTIMORE -- As is typically the case, one television screen in the Indians' clubhouse was dedicated to film of the opponent's starting pitcher.
There was the brilliance of Ubaldo Jimenez -- a devastating splitter and a fastball that he can still get up into the mid-90s -- but there were also balls falling into the outfield and booming beyond the outfield fences.
On Saturday, though, most of the hitters were preoccupied with the screens tuned to MLB Network. Most had been Jimenez's teammate for a year enough. They knew enough.
"You get to play defense behind him all year, so you kind of get a feel of how he pitches and what he does to guys," Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall said. "Obviously, you make tweaks year to year, but I think definitely it does help."
Jimenez made his first start against his former team since joining the Orioles during the offseason. He helped pitch Cleveland to the postseason last year for the first time since 2007 with his team-best 3.30 ERA, finishing an up-and-down stint with the Tribe.
The start to Jimenez's O's career has been equally as rocky. He entered Saturday just 2-5 with a 4.50 ERA, but he's gone at least seven shutout innings in two of his past four starts.
"When he throws strikes, he's tough," said Jason Giambi, who also played with Jimenez in Colorado. "He's got four good put-away pitches, but he gets in trouble when he doesn't throw strikes, and then you can get some walks and you get that one big hit."
Giambi was Jimenez's teammate on the Rockies in 2010 when the starter put together a Cy Young Award-caliber first half and got a chance to start the All-Star Game.
The designated hitter recalls opposing hitters raving about how untouchable Jimenez was. "I'm glad he walked me," they would say, "because I couldn't get a hit."
Giambi said Jimenez's 17-2 start to that season was as dominant a stretch as he's seen any of his countless teammates put together. But even then control was an issue. The righty's 16 wild pitches were the most in the National League that season, and Jimenez somehow was never able to crack the 20-win mark.
"That was the most amazing thing I've ever seen," Giambi said.
One of the Tribe's few new additions on offense was also the only player who spent more than a passing glance on the game film of Jimenez.
Shortstop Justin Sellers joined the Indians before this season after spending his first three Major League seasons with the Dodgers. He's never had the chance to go against Jimenez or to play as his teammate.
"You ever face him?" he asked Michael Brantley, whose locker is just below the TV.
"Spring Training in '09," the outfielder responded. "0-for-3. Three punchouts."
• Asdrubal Cabrera was out of the lineup again on Saturday, and the Indians shortstop expects things to stay that way for the next few days. Cabrera's knee is getting better, but the big toe on his right foot -- which he fouled a pitch off of -- is still bothering him. Right now, the shortstop said, the injuries are a bigger issue for him on defense than at the plate. Cabrera is aiming for a return during the Indians' upcoming series against the White Sox, and Francona said after Saturday's game that the shortstop will probably get one more day off before returning on Monday.
• Nick Swisher got his second straight day off due to a knee injury. The slugger has been getting treatment, and he said Francona is giving him a few days off so he can get back to 100 percent. The manager said after Saturday's win that he expects Swisher to play Sunday.
• Jason Kipnis is scheduled to make his second rehab start Saturday night with Triple-A Columbus when the Clippers face Durham at 7:05 p.m. ET. The second baseman went 0-for-2 with an RBI groundout in his first rehab appearance on Friday.
David Wilson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.