CLEVELAND -- With his first swing back in the big leagues, Lonnie Chisenhall showed why he is considered a future cornerstone for the Indians. The young third baseman also showed why all is not lost right now for the Tribe's wounded roster.
In the third inning on Monday, Chisenhall pulled a pitch from Royals right-hander Nathan Adcock down the right-field line, where the baseball disappeared over the wall for a leadoff home run. It was a moment that jump-started the Indians' offense in an 8-5 victory that offered a dose of pain relief for the ballclub.
"What a beautiful swing," Indians manager Manny Acta said with a smile. "This kid has just got a beautiful swing. That was nice to get us on the board right away."
Chisenhall's home run ignited a five-run inning that went a long way in helping Josh Tomlin find the win column in his first start following a stay on the disabled list. The blast came amid a strong offensive outpouring that kept the Indians in first place and a half-game ahead of the surging White Sox in the American League Central.
The win came at an opportune time for the Tribe, which was swept in disheartening fashion over the weekend in Chicago. To bounce back with a win over the Royals, and to do so with so many sidelined weapons, made for an improved atmosphere within Cleveland's clubhouse.
"That series was kind of a train wreck for us," said Tomlin, who was making his first start since May 7 after a bout with a right wrist injury. "You come back here and want to win at home, for sure. After that series, we wanted to come back here and get a win."
They did so with an injury-ravaged lineup.
The Indians are currently playing sans shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (left hamstring), catcher Carlos Santana (mild concussion) and designated hitter Travis Hafner (right knee). Backup catcher Lou Marson (facial contusion) was also out of the lineup on Monday.
Prior to the game, Cleveland also placed third baseman Jack Hannahan on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf and a persistent back issue. The team summoned the 23-year-old Chisenhall from Triple-A Columbus, where he was hitting .324 with four homers, 12 doubles and 17 RBIs through 28 games.
The Indians have played the past three games without Cabrera, Santana and Hafner, who usually occupy the Nos. 3-5 spots in the starting lineup. Even without those key players, though, the Tribe has pounded out 21 runs on 32 hits over the course of the past three contests.
"It's been amazing," said closer Chris Perez, who notched his 17th save with a clean ninth inning. "Honestly, you take away any team's three-four-five hitters and see how many runs they can score."
"Guys are taking advantage of the chances they're getting," said Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who has filled in as the third hitter in Cabrera's absence. "We're definitely filling some holes. I mean, you can't replace the guys we lost, but we're doing what we can to play without them.
"No one goes into the game thinking we're at a disadvantage or we're going to lose this game because we don't have those guys in the lineup. We just need to battle and have the right approach at the plate, and we can still win."
The Indians put that mentality on display in their Memorial Day victory.
After Chisenhall put Cleveland on the board with his leadoff blast, Kipnis added a two-run single with the bases loaded in the third inning to put Kansas City behind, 3-2. The Tribe tacked on two more runs in the frame, which was aided by a momentum-shifting rundown involving Kipnis and Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Moustakas gloved a high chopper off the bat of Jose Lopez and pump faked, fooling Kipnis into running too far off second base. Moustakas charged after the second baseman, who dodged a tag attempt before sprinting safely to third. Replays appeared to show Moustakas applying a tag, but the Royals arguments did not sway the umpires' ruling.
One run scored on the play and Kipnis later crossed the plate on a base hit from Casey Kotchman.
"[The umpire] said he never saw him tag him," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Everybody else in the stadium saw it. I don't know how he managed to miss it. It cost us a run and you lose by three."
Adcock took the loss after giving up those five runs (four earned) in 2 1/3 innings. The Indians later added one run in the fifth inning and another pair in the seventh, though two more Kansas City errors aided Cleveland's cause.
Tomlin (2-2) surrendered home runs to Eric Hosmer (a two-run shot in the second) and Brayan Pena (a solo blast in the fifth), but found a way to contain the Royals to four runs on four hits in his five innings of work. Given Tomlin's extended layoff, and the fact that the right-hander was working on a limited pitch count, Acta was pleased with the pitcher's performance.
"Tomlin did a very nice job," Acta said. "He gave up a couple of long balls, but he was his usual self ... He attacked the zone, both sides of the plate."
Most encouraging, however, has been the opening act by Chisenhall.
With a handful of injured players due back soon -- Cabrera and Hafner might return to the mix within the next couple of days, while Santana could be activated by this weekend -- and Chisenhall potentially adding a potent bat to the fold, the Indians might be able to weather their current storm.
Chisenhall was not looking that far ahead.
"It's just nice to be back," he said.