CLEVELAND – Hitting is contagious.
This belief rings true for the Indians, a team that slashed .241/.314/.416 in May before hitting the gas pedal for .271/.340/.477 averages in June.
When a winning attitude makes its way to a clubhouse chock full of talent, the results tend to translate for more than just one hitter in a batting order.
"From the top to the bottom, everybody's having good at-bats, going up there trying to get the job done," said Austin Jackson. "We've been doing a good job with driving the ball when we get our pitch. Like I said, it's contagious. One guy does it (then) it seems like it trickles down the order."
Jackson is batting .500 (5-for-10) in his last three games and seems to have resurrected his injury-laden career in Cleveland.
He is not the only one to hit his mid-season stride.
Jason Kipnis went 2-for-3 with a home run while Carlos Santana went 2-for-2 with a two-run shot, both players who have sported a Tribe uniform longer than most on the 25-man roster. With batting averages clinging just above the Mendoza Line, a boost from this pair of veterans may go a long way toward gaining ground atop the AL Central division.
“We just have the guys who were hot in [Jose Ramirez] and [Edwin Encarnacion] (who) stayed hot, and then you have some guys that are due and coming around,” Kipnis said when asked about whether hitting is actually contagious. “You’re going to get some long innings. That’s what we like.”
With Michael Brantley on the 10-day disabled list, manager Terry Francona will certainly welcome even more contributors on the offensive end of the spectrum with Ramirez winning the AL Player of the Week award and Encarnacion featuring a .780 slugging percentage in June.
"It was nice to see Santana hit a home run right-handed," said Francona. "Jackson had the two big hits and then the one he probably hit the best got caught at the wall. Kip swung the bat. We did a lot of good things. We scored and then we kept at it. We put our foot on the gas.”
The Tribe has won a season-high six in a row and now carries their largest first-place lead of the campaign. Kluber is effortlessly throwing shutouts, Encarnacion is mercilessly hitting home runs and Jackson is miraculously returning to the form that landed him in second place on the 2010 Rookie of the Year ballot.
The level of energy on both sides of the ball seems to be reaching new heights.
"It's definitely nice," Kluber of gaining extra run support. "I think that it all starts with the energy. You feel it from the first pitch. Just the vibe in that dugout, I think guys trying to be more aggressive instead of just letting the game come to us. Kind of force the issue a little bit more."
Add Kipnis and Santana to this prosperous formula after collectively making a substantial impact on Monday night from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a night where more home run balls carried the road nine to yet another convincing blowout…
Result: Jason Kipnis’ solo home run on a 1-2, 89.4-mph two-seam fastball delivered by RHP Dylan Bundy.
Result: Carlos Santana’s two-run homer on a first-pitch, 90.4-mph four-seam fastball delivered by LHP Vidal Nuno.
Not only is there a track record with these two fan favorites, but there is also a sense of confidence in Kipnis that he and his under-performing teammates will come around and contribute to an even higher degree.
“You got guys who might be struggling,” said Kipnis. “When you start an inning with a guy on second all the time or if you get a guy on in front of him he’s driven in, that just keeps the line moving. That’s what we preach as an offense. Just keep the line moving and get to the next guy.”