But the Indians had a new cleanup hitter and Lonnie Chisenhall coming off the bench. The lineup changes produced some instant offense and the Indians' first lead in three days as they beat the Dodgers, 12-5, Thursday afternoon to avoid a three-game sweep at Progressive Field.
Francona dropped slumping Carlos Santana out of the cleanup spot on Thursday morning and replaced him with Edwin Encarnacion, who spent his first 36 games this season in the No.4 spot. Encarnacion responded with three hits, including a homer, and four runs.
In the fifth, with the Tribe leading, 5-4, Chisenhall pinch-hit for Austin Jackson and hit a three-run homer. It was his second pinch-hit homer of the season, the first being a grand slam.
"Lonnie took a beautiful swing," said Francona.
In the sixth, Chisenhall added a two-run single. He became just the third Tribe player since 1913, according to baseball-reference.com, to come off the bench and drive in five or more runs in one game. John Ellis had six against the Red Sox on Sept. 5, 1973 and Chuck Essegian had five against the old Kansas City Athletics on June 11, 1961.
"Tito finds good situations for guys," said Chisenhall, referring to his pinch-hit homer. "You don't try to read his mind, but I've done it for long enough that we're kind of on the same page. I can visualize a good spot for me."
The top of the lineup produced a quick 5-0 lead in the first two innings. Francisco Lindor, batting leadoff because Kipnis was sidelined with neck spasms, opened the game with a single. Daniel Robertson and Jose Ramirez followed with singles as well. Ramirez, batting in the third spot for Brantley, who left the team to be with his wife who was about to give birth, scored Lindor with a single to center.
Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill (3-3, 5.14) made it 2-0 when he walked Roberto Perez with the bases loaded. Bradley Zimmer brought home the third run of the first inning when he beat out an infield single to first. Zimmer outran Hill to the bag as Cody Bellinger fielded the ball.
Ramirez, who had three of the Tribe's 15 hits, doubled home Robertson for a 4-0 lead in the second. Encarnacion followed with his 13th homer.
"Edwin is starting to look a lot like himself," said Francona. "He's taking a lot of good swings. For a while he was in between with the breaking ball and fastball.
"Now you may get a fastball by him, but he's taking so many good swings. It looks like he's swung himself into feeling good."
The Dodgers, who did not relinquish their six-game winning streak easily, made things interesting against Josh Tomlin (4-8, 5.83). Bellinger hit his third homer of the series to make it a 5-1 game in the fourth. Chris Taylor added a two-run homer in the fifth to make it a one-run game.
Tomlin, 2-5 in his last seven games, showed his grit in the fifth. Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig opened the inning with consecutive doubles. Taylor followed with his homer to center field. Tomlin struck out the next two batters, walked Bellinger and retired Kiki Davis on a great stop and throw by rookie Erik Gonzalez at second.
Gonzalez, who botched a critical double play in Wednesday's 6-4 loss, hit his first big-league homer in the seventh. Gonzalez wasn't the only rookie slapping leather.
In the sixth, Nick Goody allowed a double to Austin Barnes and walked Logan Forsythe. Pederson sent a liner to center that Zimmer caught and fired a strike to Gonzalez at second to double up Barnes. The ball arrived with such force it knocked Gonzalez to the ground.
"To get two outs on a line out really helps," said Francona.
Tomlin allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out seven. Tomlin, in his first 66 innings this season, walked just two batters.
What it means
The Indians' win was just their second interleague victory of the season in 11 games. They beat Cincinnati on May 23.
Tomlin threw 99 pitches, 60 (61 percent) for strikes. Hill threw 105 pitches, 64 (61 percent) for strikes.
Thanks for coming
The Dodgers and Indians drew 23,339 to Progressive Field on Thursday afternoon. First pitch was 12:11 p.m. with a temperature of 77 degrees.
The three-game series drew 66,561.
The Indians open a four-game weekend series against the Twins on Friday night at Target Field. The series will feature a day-night doubleheader on Saturday as the result of a rainout on April 19.
Carlos Carrasco (6-3, 3.36) will open the series for the Tribe against lefty Nick Turley (0-0, 9.00) at 8:10 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM/1100 and WMMS/FM 100.7 will carry the game.
Here's what Twins manager Paul Molitor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the series between the top two teams in the Central: "It should be fun to play Cleveland at this time of the year. There's not any extra pressure to try and prove anything. You are playing a team that was in the World Series last year, a very talented team.
"People are going to try and use it as a measuring stick of where you're at. There's too many games (left) to put it into any category of being essential or critical. Young players are looking for things to continue to build confidence. I think to go out there and play the well, whatever the outcomes might be, will be as important as maybe winning the game."
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