Johnny Damon has hit just .172 in 16 games since joining the Indians at the beginning of the month, providing little return on a one-year, $1.25 million contract with another $1.4 million in potential incentives.
Manny Acta has already removed Damon from the leadoff spot, but the manager indicated that he’s not close to benching the 38-year-old veteran:
We don’t have a timetable or anything. Damon is here to play for us up until he doesn’t want to be here. We signed Damon to be part of the Cleveland Indians. Johnny was signed to be part of this ballclub until the end.
It probably helps Damon’s cause that the Indians are in first place at 23-18 and the rest of the lineup has been decent, putting Cleveland in the middle of the AL pack for run scoring.
Obviously any time a 38-year-old struggles it’s natural to wonder if he’s finished as a productive regular, particularly in Damon’s case when he sat out all of April while trying to find a new team. One positive sign within his overall struggles is that Damon has more walks (9) than strikeouts (6) in 67 plate appearances, suggesting that he hasn’t been overmatched at the plate even if the hits haven’t come yet. Otherwise, though, it’s been pretty ugly.
Matt Carpenter pulled his weight and then some during the Cardinals’ 18-5 win on Friday, becoming just the second player in MLB history to tally three home runs and two doubles in the same game… and the first-ever to do so in the first six innings of a single game.
Carpenter wasted little time getting the Cardinals on the board, first drawing a full count against Cubs lefty Jon Lester, then ricocheting a 92.4-MPH fastball off the scoreboard in right field for a leadoff home run. He returned in the second inning for another two-run shot and capped a seven-run spread in the fifth with an RBI double (his first double of the game was a leadoff hit in the fourth) before polishing off his performance with a third, three-run homer in the sixth.
Following Friday’s explosive five-run, seven-RBI performance, Carpenter is now batting .274/.381/.576 on the year with 23 home runs, 30 doubles and a .957 OPS in 388 PA. The last player to record five extra-base hits in one game was the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, who collected four runs and six RBI for the team back in June 2016. As MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch pointed out, Carpenter might have set another franchise record for most home runs in a game had interim manager Mike Shildt not removed him from the game in the bottom of the sixth. The record is still held by former club outfielder Mark Whiten, who collected four home runs (and a staggering 12 RBI) against the Reds in September 1993.