CLEVELAND — The Indians’ inconsistent ways continued Thursday afternoon, but they took a positive turn in the interleague series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After sputtering offensively over the first two games, Cleveland finally found its stroke, slugging out a 12-5 victory at Progressive Field that avoided the sweep.
Nearly everyone joined the hit parade, with each player in the lineup collecting at least one hit, save right fielder Austin Jackson, whose replacement, Lonnie Chisenhall, hit a pivotal home run to help secure just Cleveland’s fourth win in the last 11 games.
After the Dodgers closed to within a run in the top of the fifth, manager Terry Francona called on Chisenhall to pinch hit for Jackson in the bottom of the inning. Chisenhall responded by belting a three-run homer off reliever Ross Stripling to put the Indians in front 8-4.
“They had just fought back and you could kind of feel some of the momentum (slipping away),” Francona said. “I think (bench coach Brad Mills) kind of pushed me in that direction and boy, Lonnie took a beautiful swing.”
Chisenhall, an experienced pinch hitter, was not caught off guard when Francona called his name, and he wasn’t done producing, either, scoring two more with a single that put Cleveland in front 10-4 in the sixth.
“It’s more of a mindset than getting your body ready. The only way to learn how to (pinch hit) is to do it a lot,” Chisenhall said. “I embrace it. I like to go up there and swing the bat and Tito picks those spots where you can have success. It’s just all about being ready mentally.”
Chisenhall became just the third substitute player in franchise history to drive in five or more runs, joining John Ellis (five in 1973) and Chuck Essegian (six in 1961).
He was one of four players with multihit games for Cleveland, which outhit LA 15-9.
Included in that group was Edwin Encarnacion, who continued his hot streak by reaching base in all five of his trips to the plate and hitting his team-leading 13th homer.
Encarnacion, who matched a career high with four runs, has homered in eight of his last 24 games, batting .341 (29-for-85) with 16 RBIs over the stretch.
“He’s starting to look a lot like himself,” Francona said of last year’s American League leader in RBIs. “He’s taking a lot of good swings, where for a while there he was in between. You might get a fastball by him, but he’s taking so many good swings. You kind of swing yourself into feeling good.”
Cleveland went deep three times on the day, with second baseman Erik Gonzalez hitting his first career homer to lead off the seventh.
Right-hander Josh Tomlin got the win for just the second time in his last seven starts, allowing four runs on seven hits, while striking out seven over five innings.
The right-hander shut the Dodgers out on two hits over the first three innings, surrendering a solo homer in the fourth to red-hot rookie Cody Bellinger. Tomlin was touched up for three runs in the fifth — two on a homer from Chris Taylor that made it 5-4.
“Early, (he was) really good,” Francona said of Tomlin. “He got some deeper counts in the fourth and fifth and that’s when he can run into some trouble.”
“I felt like it was a little bit of work,” Tomlin said. “Those guys make you get in the zone. There were a lot of 2-2, 3-2 counts. It was a pretty tough day, but at the end of the day we won and we were able to keep the team in the game long enough for the offense to explode. They did a great job.”
After a positive finish to the homestand, the Indians begin an eight-day, nine-game road trip with a four-game series against Central Division-leading Minnesota that starts tonight.
“We’re going to Minnesota. They’re in first place in the division and we’ll know more where we stand (after that),” Chisenhall said.