CLEVELAND (AP) — Michael Brantley largely lost his previous two seasons to injuries.
Cleveland’s left fielder has returned and is one of the best hitters in baseball again.
Brantley extended his hitting streak to 18 games by going 3 for 4, including a solo homer, and the Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago White Sox 7-3 on Tuesday night.
“When you get a really good hitter, a really good player and he feels confident and take it to the fact that he’s healthy, it’s fun to watch,” manager Terry Francona said.
Brantley played in only 11 games two years ago because of a shoulder injury. He batted .299 last season, but was limited by an ankle injury the final two months. Brantley had surgery in October and missed the first week of this season.
This year, he’s batting .343 with nine home runs and a .953 OPS.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger, who allowed one run in 6 2 /3 innings Tuesday, knows what Brantley means to the Indians.
“I don’t want to jinx anything,” Clevinger said. “I want him on the field and I want him in the lineup. I don’t think there was ever a doubt with him being on the DL that we didn’t need him or want him here. We knew this is exactly the player you’re gonna get, and he’s only exceeding expectations.”
Brantley is batting .367 (29 of 79) with five homers, 18 RBIs and 19 runs scored during the streak.
Jose Ramirez hit his team-leading 16th home run in the fifth and drove in a run with a first-inning double. Jason Kipnis homered in the eighth for Cleveland, which has won four straight and is 12-5 against the AL Central.
Clevinger (4-2) struck out seven and allowed four hits.
Chicago has lost five of six and has the worst record in the majors (16-36). Lucas Giolito (3-6) allowed five runs in six innings.
“Their guy pretty much kept us off the bases and they scored more than we did,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said.
Tim Anderson had an RBI single in the second for Chicago. Daniel Palka doubled to lead off and scored on Anderson’s one-out hit. Charlie Tilson drew a two-out walk, but Clevinger struck out Omar Narvaez.
Palka hit a leadoff homer in the ninth off Dan Otero.
Cleveland’s shaky bullpen allowed two runs over the final 2 1/3 innings. Tyler Olson worked a scoreless inning and Otero got slugger Jose Abreu on a double play ball to end the eighth. Zach McAllister gave up Trayce Thompson’s two-out RBI single, but Narvaez grounded out.
The Indians felt pressured to respond to an unsubstantiated report from the Dominican Republic that Ramirez was on the verge of being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs.
Both manager Terry Francona and team president Chris Antonetti addressed the issue before the game. Antonetti said the club reached out to MLB for additional assurance that “there was nothing to the rumor.” Ramirez had told the club he was not involved in any wrongdoing.
Ramirez also went on Twitter and posted, “FAKE NEWS.”
Antonetti and Francona spoke with Ramirez on Tuesday afternoon.
“He said, ‘I have no idea what they’re talking about, I’ve worked really hard to try and become the player that I am, and there’s nothing to it,’” Antonetti said. “We believed Jose when he told us that.”
Ramirez spoke to reporters through a translator following the game and said his first reaction when he found out about the report Tuesday morning was to laugh.
“I’m really not worried about it,” he said. “I do feel bad for any fan that maybe got a wrong impression of me, but that’s bad information. I’ve never used anything like that.”
Ramirez said he was happy to have a productive game after spending the day dealing with the rumors.
“My focus was to hit a home run,” he said. “When it comes to baseball, I focus on what’s going on in the field and let everything else go by.”
White Sox: C Kevan Smith (ankle) was activated off the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte. Renteria indicated that Smith could return to the big leagues this weekend when Chicago hosts Milwaukee.
Indians: OF Lonnie Chisenhall (strained right calf), Bradley Zimmer (bruised left rib) and Brandon Guyer (strained neck) are close to being activated.
White Sox RHP Reynaldo Lopez (1-3, 2.93 ERA) takes on Indians RHP Corey Kluber (7-2, 2.17 ERA) in the three-game series finale. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Kluber has allowed three or fewer runs in 23 consecutive starts, dating back to Aug. 3, 2017.