Indians come up with clutch hits on Saturday

Indians come up with clutch hits on Saturday

CLEVELAND -- Baseball is a game that, more often than not, abides by the law of averages. It's also a game of streaks. But in the end, those streaks tend to even themselves out.

In Saturday's 2-1 victory over Cincinnati, the Indians experienced some regression to the mean, in a good way.

It's been something of a mystery for the Indians this season, looking at what they've done in high-leverage situations compared to the rest of their at-bats. As a whole, the team's lineup hasn't been a problem. The Indians have a 106 OPS+, indicating an above-league-average offense that ranks sixth in the MLB.

But in clutch situations, the Indians have cratered. With men on base, that OPS+ drops to 89. With two outs and runners in scoring position, it's plummeted to 69.

That's where the law of averages comes into play. History has shown that these things tend to even out over time. If a team hits, as the Indians have, the distribution of those hits will even out, and the clutch hits will come. Clutch hits lead to runs. Runs lead to wins. And that's how it went for the Indians on Saturday.

Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, Jason Kipnis started a two-out rally with a single to right field. Carlos Santana followed with a walk. And then David Murphy delivered the very thing that's escaped and exasperated the Indians as of late -- the high-leverage RBI.

Murphy's RBI single

"It's gonna happen," Kipnis said. "The game is a law of averages … if you're not getting any hits in the beginning of the year, later in the year, some things are going to drop for you. So it's just a matter of who's going hot, who's getting the hits at the right time and, today, we got the right hit at the right time."

But the one wouldn't be enough. Murphy's knock tied the score at 1 and, surely, more high-leverage situations would follow. The Indians would need to conquer their unexplainable kryptonite again.

Still tied 1-1, Roberto Perez led off the eighth inning with a walk. Michael Bourn botched a sacrifice bunt attempt, and Perez was thrown out at second. It looked like the Indians might be back to their old ways. Until Kipnis delivered yet another high-leverage hit, doubling off the wall in left and scoring Bourn, the go-ahead run, from first.

"I think probably down deep you know you will [eventually get high-leverage hits]," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "When you're not getting them it's hard to feel that way. When you have players like Kipnis and {Michael Brantley] and guys like that, you like to see them up in those situations because you think maybe they'll more than even out. Good players have a way of making those things happen."

August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.