8/30/2014 7:27 P.M. ET
Tribe looks to do damage before getting to KC 'pen
By Jackson Alexander / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- Visiting teams to Kauffman Stadium paying tribute to the Royals' fantastic bullpen has become a theme this season. The Indians were no different when they began their three-game series with Kansas City on Friday.
Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis recognized the importance of jumping out to an early lead, thus neutralizing the Royals' killer unit, something the Tribe did in their 6-1 win Friday.
"That's why you got to get on a team like this early and make sure you have the lead, going into the late innings," Kipnis said. "When you have a strong bullpen, and guys that you can count on in the back end it shortens the game for you, to where you only need to play small ball for five-to-seven innings kind of get that lead, and let the bullpen take it from there."
The most terrorizing arms are seventh-inning man Kelvin Herrera, setup man Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland. The trio has combined for 166 2/3 innings, a 1.30 ERA and 209 strikeouts this season.
"Those three guys at the end, we were going over our advanced report today -- and we probably shouldn't have looked because it didn't help," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said, adding: "It's like [video] game numbers, they're good, they're really good."
Cleveland avoided all three in the first game as it led from the second inning on.
"It's not just stuff alone, because all of them are hard throwers, all of them are 95 [mph] plus, got nasty stuff," Kipnis said. "But they know what they do well, they throw strikes they don't walk too many people, and when you've got guys in the back of the bullpen that do that, they're pretty effective."
Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall saw a similar dynamic in his team's bullpen, with closer Cody Allen and a cast of solid middle relievers sporting the fourth-best ERA in MLB.
"We have that situation with our bullpen too," Chisenhall said. "We know that if we're winning in the fifth, sixth, seventh inning, we've got a really good shot at winning the game."
Walters working to become more complete hitter
KANSAS CITY -- Zach Walters could focus on the positives of his first 16 games with the Indians -- for example, his .508 slugging percentage -- but the youngster prefers to look at areas of his game that require improvement.
"I'm pretty cold right now," said Walters, who continued by disagreeing with the notion that he's a power hitter. "No, actually, I think I'm just a good hitter, believe it or not, but I don't say that because of my stats, obviously."
Walters' batting average (.186) and on-base percentage (.238) in 63 plate appearances with Cleveland jibe with his proclamation of the current cold streak. However, of Walters' 11 hits with the Tribe, seven have been for extra-base hits, including six home runs.
"If I can drive in runs while I'm not feeling really well, that's fine with me," said Walters, who clocked an RBI double in his team's 6-1 win on Friday.
In an admittedly small sample size, Walters carries the highest isolated slugging percentage -- a stat that attempts to quantify one's power-hitting capabilities -- among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. His .296 ISO trumps all 412 MLB players that qualify, according to FanGraphs.com.
"Well, he's got a lot of sock in his bat," Tribe manager Terry Francona said. "I think he's enjoyed the fact that he's playing and when he swings at strikes, man, he does some damage."
Walters displayed similar power tendencies in his first 32 games this season with the Nationals. He posted a .205/.279/.462 slash line in 34 plate appearances, before being dealt to Cleveland for Asdrubal Cabrera on July 31.
The 24-year-old is attempting to break the power-hitting archetype that he views as restrictive and inaccurate.
"I want to get on base, I want to put together multiple-hit games like every other guy," Walters said.
Quote to note
"I think Murph's getting antsy to play. He's been pretty diligent about getting here early, he's been here as long as I have every day." -- Francona on injured outfielder David Murphy.
• The Indians' win on Friday was the franchise's 9,000th victory. They trail only the Yankees (9,899) and Red Sox (9,134) for most wins by an American League team.
• Francona said Friday's acquisition of Russell Branyan revolves around providing depth for Triple-A Columbus. The 14-year veteran is unlikely to contribute at the big league level "unless something happens," said Francona. "I think [General Manager] Chris [Antonetti] was really honest with him about that."
• Jason Giambi and Ryan Raburn received days off Friday on their rehab stints at Double-A Akron. Both are expected to play Saturday. Giambi is eligible to return from the disabled list on Sept. 1, while Rayburn can come off on Sept. 2.
• Cleveland donned 1974 throwback uniforms for Retro Night at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday. The Tribe wore bright red tops with "Indians" on the front, with black and white trim.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.