The Indians gave Yankees’ right-hander Chad Green a rude welcome to Progressive Field on Friday night, blasting three home runs in the first inning on their way to a washout 10-2 victory . The Tribe went on to hit a season high five total home runs including a 460-foot bomb by Mike Napoli that came within one row of John Adams’ perch atop of bleachers in left field.
Green, coming off of a strong start on Sunday against San Diego (6 IP, 1 ER, 3 hits, 8 K’s), couldn’t avoid grooving fastballs over the middle of the plate and the Indians made him pay early and often. Carlos Santana led off the game with a home run for the fourth time this season and Jason Kipnis immediately followed with another shot to stake the Indians to a quick 2-0 lead. Later in the first, Lonnie Chisenhall teed off on a hanging slider with a runner aboard to give the Indians a 4-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
The early lead was enough for Corey Kluber who was his usual efficient self, using 96 pitches to go eight innings and allowing one run while striking out eight. It was Kluber’s last appearance before the All-Star game where he’ll take a 9-8 record and 3.61 ERA along with a magnificent 4.5 K/BB ratio. Rookie Joe Colon made his Major League debut in the ninth, striking out his first big league batter (Jacoby Ellsbury) and later allowing a run before closing it out at the 10-2 final.
Carlos Santana Leads Off
Santana offers an unusual combination of power and on base skills out of the lead off spot. In 41 games in the lead off position, Santana has a .357 OBP and has hit nine home runs. Prorated over a full season, that would project to 36 home runs and 116 runs scored.
Per fangraphs, Santana swings at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone than any other player in the Majors (17.6%) and also sees the seventh fewest first-pitch strikes (52.7%) in the Majors. Only his low batting average (.248) contributes to his lower OBP (.351) relative to the Majors where he ranks 73rd and even ranks behind teammates Jose Ramirez (.355) and Francisco Lindor (.353).
Party at Napoli’s
Napoli has now hit as many home runs this season as he did all of last year with Boston and Texas (18) and may eventually challenge his career-high of 30 from 2011 when he was one David Freese away from winning the World Series MVP.
Most encouragingly, Napoli has completely overcome a worrisome trend against right-handed pitchers. Last season Napoli hit .191/.283/.320 with six home runs against righties. In 45 less plate appearances this season, Napoli has already hit fourteen home runs while slashing .232/.306/.464. His .770 OPS against righties is slightly higher than his .767 OPS against lefties. For his career, Napoli has a .801 OPS against righties and .906 against lefties.
Without a doubt, Napoli has been a great pick-up by Chernoff/Antonetti on a one year/$7 million deal to add some righty pop to the middle of the order.