Jason Kipnis, who already has a streak of homering in four straight games in his very young career, went 5-for-5 with a homer and four runs scored Wednesday in the Indians’ 10-3 win over the Tigers. It was his sixth homer in 16 games as a major leaguer.
Kipnis became the first rookie to finish with five hits and four runs scored in a game since Mark Reynolds (May 25) and David Murphy (Aug. 22) both did so in 2007. Andre Ethier also pulled off the feat on May 19, 2006. No other active player had such a game as a rookie.
It’s also the earliest in a career that any player has had a 5-for-5 game since Houston’s Josh Anderson had one in his ninth game on Sept. 16, 2007. Reynolds was in his 10th game when he did it earlier in 2007. Austin Jackson did it in his 23rd game on April 30, 2010.
Finally, with the homer tonight, Kipnis became the first player to collect six homers in his first 16 games since Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden did so for the Rangers in 2008.
Kipnis has struck out 20 times already and his defense has looked a little rough at times, but he certainly appears to be here to stay. The converted outfielder has showed enough promise at second base to remain there for at least the beginning of 2012, and if he needs to move to left field at some point, he’ll likely have the bat to pull it off.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.