07/26/11 12:39 AM ET
Kipnis delivers walk-off with first MLB hit
By Zack Meisel / MLB.com
On just his fourth day as a Major Leaguer, Kipnis followed in the footsteps of his teammates, who have sprayed walk-off hits to every crevice of Progressive Field this season. His walk-off single -- the first hit and RBI of his career -- provided the Indians with a 3-2 win, and earned him a beer shower in the clubhouse.
"It's really nice to just fit into this one," Kipnis said. "They've been doing this all year; it's nothing new. This is a gritty team that will be fighting until the end of games."
The second baseman joined the Indians on Friday after batting .279 with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 91 games for Triple-A Columbus. Though skipper Manny Acta said that Kipnis' playing time will be determined on a day-to-day basis, his promotion was another transaction aimed at sparking a sputtering offense.
Kipnis will share second-base duties with 36-year-old veteran Orlando Cabrera. Who joins Asdrubal Cabrera in the middle of the infield will depend on "mostly matchups and stuff," Acta said.
Perhaps Acta would have substituted the right-handed-hitting Orlando for Kipnis -- who swings from the left side -- in the ninth inning against Angels southpaw Hisanori Takahashi. Instead, Orlando ran for Travis Hafner, leaving the rookie in the spotlight with the game hanging in the balance.
Just like the rest of the Indians' lineup, Kipnis hadn't fared too well against Angels starter Dan Haren, with a popout and a pair of strikeouts in three at-bats against the right-hander.
But as the Indians began piecing together their ninth-inning rally, thoughts of contributing a game-winning hit trickled through his mind.
"I looked up at the scoreboard," Kipnis said, "and I started mapping it out like, 'How can this get to me in the order? What possibility can it get to where I'd have to bat?' Bases loaded, two outs would be the way that I would get to bat."
The game reached the scenario Kipnis had plotted out, and the rookie, who saw few fastballs in his first five career at-bats, got exactly what he wanted from Takahashi: a heater.
Kipnis turned on the fastball and rifled a sharp grounder past a diving Maicer Izturis to plate the winning run. As he started his adrenaline-fueled sprint to first base, he pumped his fist, and his teammates came pouring out of the dugout to meet him.
The Indians rejoiced on the infield grass, just as they've done time and time again this season, no matter who delivered. On this occasion it was the new guy.
He learned quickly.
"He's not going to be intimidated," Acta said. "He is going to contribute, and he has already done it today. ... Jason Kipnis couldn't pick a better spot to get his first hit in the big leagues."
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.