When Lonnie Chisenhall arrived at Kauffman Stadium Tuesday afternoon, he learned that the Baseball Hall Of Fame requested a bat of his. Not just any ordinary bat but rather one similar to Roy Hobbs’ “Wonderboy” from the movie The Natural.
In case you haven’t read or heard by now, here was Chisenhall’s line from Monday night in Arlington: Five at-bats, three runs, five hits, one double, three home runs, nine RBIs.
He singled in a run in the first inning, hit a two-run homer in the second, hit another two-run homer in the fourth, doubled home a run in the sixth and hit a three-run homer in the eighth. According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chisenhall’s nine RBI “…tied a club record set by Chris Jameson May 4, 1991 in Oakland. He is the first Indian to hit three homers in a game since Shin-Soo Choo did it against Kansas City on Sept. 17, 2010.”
Let’s take a closer look at his historic night and try to put into numbers just how special it really was.
Going into the game, Texas Rangers rookie starter Nick Martinez had made just six starts on the season with mixed results as he had never made it past the sixth inning. In his previous start, he had allowed six runs in 5 1/3 innings during a loss to Baltimore. In his last four prior starts, Martinez had more walks (9) than strikeouts (8) in 22 innings and left-handed hitters were batting .314 with a .935 OPS in 86 at-bats against the rookie. Couple those numbers with the fact that Chisenhall was hitting .333 with a .507 slugging percentage in 132 at-bats against right-handers for the season and the writing was on the wall for a big game for the tribe slugger.
In Chisenhall’s first plate appearance with runners on second and third, he ripped the first pitch he saw, a Martinez fastball, into right field for single which scored Asdrubal Cabrera from third. The fastball that Martinez threw was clocked at 90mph from pitch f/x data courtesy of MLB Gameday. He threw the fastball on the lower half of the strikezone right down the middle.
It was Chisenhall’s second at-bat which showed his versatility at the plate; something that has allowed him to lead the league in hitting through nearly three months of the season. Martinez started the at-bat by throwing him two straight fastballs very similar to the one Chisenhall saw in his first plate appearance. The first one was called a ball while the second one was fouled off. The third pitch was a changeup in the exact same location as the other four pitches Chineshall saw previously. With it, he hit a two-run homerun into the right field stands.
There was not much velocity separation between the changeup and the fastball’s he had seen as the chaneup was relatively flat and sat at 84 MPH, only about a 5 MPH difference. This simply was of no concern for Major League Baseball’s hottest hitter. It was also the last time Chisenhall would face Martinez.
After Martinez was roughed up for eight runs on six hits and three walks in just two innings, the Rangers brought in Scott Baker, whom Chisenhall would end up facing the rest of the game. Baker, who recently moved to a long-relief role for the Rangers, has a fastball that sits in the high 80s and low 90s, but can locate it very well. He also features a slider, curve ball, and change-up. The slider is his out pitch for right handed hitters and the change-up he will use mostly to left handed hitters. The changeup registers as a sinker on pitch f/x.
Chisenhalls’s first at bat against Baker saw two sinkers and a slider; all three of which were down the middle of the plate and on the lower half of the strikezone. Again, in Chisenhall’s “wheelhouse.” With a 1-1 count, he blasted another two-run homerun off a sinker to right-center field.
The same held true for his remaining two plate appearances. Baker continued to disrespect Chisenhall by throwing that sinker to the lower half of the plate, right in his hot zone.
Lonnie Chisenhall has been red hot; this game was no different. The Texas Rangers didn’t hurt matters when they decided to pitch him in the middle of the plate.