Historical feat not on Zach Walters' radar

Slugger became first Cleveland Indians player to hit six home runs in his first 13 games.
MCT Regional News
Aug 28, 2014

On Tuesday night, Zach Walters became the first Indians player to hit six home runs in his first 13 games.

One reporter jokingly told the 24-year-old on Wednesday he’s outpacing Babe Ruth. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Sultan of Swat managed just one swat in the same span in 1914-15.

The list of Indians who have totaled five homers in their first 13 includes only six others: Mark Reynolds (2013), Jason Kipnis (2011), Jayson Nix (2010), Juan Gonzalez (2001), Luis Medina (1988) and Leon Wagner (1964).

But even after his two-run smash to right field in the 10th inning gave the Indians an 8-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox in U.S. Cellular Field, Walters was taking nothing for granted. He said he worried after he missed a bunt before the home run that the Indians were going to demote him to rookie ball.

“They seem like they’re pretty happy to have me,” Walters said. “I don’t know why.”

When the Indians traded shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Washington Nationals on July 31, the Tribe front office paid the remainder of Cabrera’s 2014 salary to get Walters.

“Yeah, no pressure, right?” Walters said when that was mentioned.

Going into the second game of the three-game series against the White Sox on Wednesday, Walters had 18 hits this season for the Nationals and Tribe and nine were home runs. But rather than reveling in numbers, he’s learning how to handle being a designated hitter for the first time in his career.

“I try to hit before I come up and run around when I can,” he said. “I’m so simple-minded, it’s hard for me to sit down. The reason I came back to my locker is apparently my mom’s trying to get hold of me.”

Learning from Giambi

Designated hitter Jason Giambi is expected to return soon from the 60-day disabled list. But even when that happens, Indians manager Terry Francona doesn’t expect to see Walters “sitting the bench a ton.”

“That doesn’t mean he has to play every day,” Francona said of Walters. “We’ll pick spots for G, G can pinch-hit; it gives us more options.”

Walters lives in Las Vegas, 15 minutes from Giambi’s home in the Anthem Country Club development in Henderson, Nev. Walters said he hopes he can get together in the offseason with the 43-year-old who has 440 major-league homers. Until Giambi’s rehab assignment with Double-A Akron began, Walters had been picking Giambi’s brain frequently.

“I come up and bother him all the time,” Walters said. “He gives me that, ‘What’s up, kid?’ and I’m like ‘Are you ready?’ He seems like he’s the new guy — he’s talking, making sure you’re comfortable. That’s the kind of player I want to be around.

“He’s got freaking 20 years; I only have 20 days. ‘Where’s my cup of coffee?’ I’m sure I can make him the coffee.”

Walters said he is so thrilled with the Indians’ patience and faith in him, especially since he said he weighs more (210 pounds) than his batting average (.208), and he hopes his future is in Cleveland.

“Just because of how it is and the atmosphere, I’d love to be here 10 to 15 years,” Walters said. “I’d love to be here for the rest of my career. I’ve got to work hard to do that.”

* * *

Indians ace Corey Kluber suffers second consecutive loss, 3-2 to White Sox

It seems hard to say Corey Kluber appears to be tiring when the Indians’ ace right-hander allowed only three runs Wednesday night.

But the American League Cy Young Award candidate was so dominant through 26 starts this season that a 32-pitch inning against the Chicago White Sox felt like a warning sign. Especially when it came on the heels of his first loss in more than a month.

After a rough third inning, Kluber regrouped and lasted 6?. But he took his second consecutive loss as the White Sox prevailed 3-2 in the second game of a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.

Kluber (13-8, 2.52) struck out eight, giving him 213 and moving him into 19th on the Indians’ single-season strikeout list. In his next start he should pass Gaylord Perry’s 216.

But he also passed his career-high in innings pitched, now at 192?. Last season he notched 147?, plus another 12 in Triple-A. In 2012, he registered 63 innings with the Tribe and a total of 188?, including Columbus duty.

Kluber’s nine hits allowed was his most since May 9, when he also gave up nine at Tampa Bay against the Rays. Kluber had not lost two consecutive games since June, when those were sandwiched around a no-decision.

The Indians (67-64) had a three-game winning streak snapped just as they reached their high-water mark of the season at four games over .500 Tuesday. The loss, coupled with Kansas City’s victory over Minnesota, dropped the third-place Indians 6½ games behind the Royals in the AL Central Division.

Tribe third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall seemed to give the Indians new life when he tied the game 2-2 in the seventh with his 12th homer and his first since Aug. 4. Chisenhall sent a 3-2 pitch from right-hander Hector Noesi (8-9, 4.75) just over the right field fence. But the White Sox came back to take the lead in the bottom of the inning on Jose Abreu’s RBI single to center.

In that inning, the Indians survived a crew chief review when catcher Roberto Perez tagged out Carlos Sanchez on a fielder’s choice grounder to third. Sanchez was out by 20 feet, but third-base umpire Joe West checked to make sure Perez gave Sanchez a lane to the plate. After a 48-second delay, the out call was confirmed, but Kluber was denied a warm-up pitch by home-plate umpire Rob Drake.

Abreu followed with his single to score Adam Eaton and end Kluber’s night.

In the first two innings, Kluber retired the White Sox on 30 pitches. In the third, he needed two more than that as the Sox got to him for two runs on four hits, including Eaton’s one-out triple to the right field corner.

It might have been worse, but Carlos Santana speared a bullet off the bat of Alexei Ramirez, prompting a brief visit by Perez. Abreu brought Eaton home with a single to center and Adam Dunn followed with an RBI double to center. Avisail Garcia drew a walk, bringing out pitching coach Mickey Callaway, before Conor Gillaspie beat out a single to second. Kluber escaped more damage by getting Tyler Flowers to ground out to third.

Kluber was coming off an Aug. 21 loss at Minnesota, when he gave up three runs in seven innings.

———

By Marla Ridenour - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services