Did Lonnie Chisenhall just have the best game in Indians history?

Rick Yeatts

It's not hyperbole to think the answer is yes.

As you may have heard, Lonnie Chisenhall was bananas last night. He went 5 for 5, which is a great accomplishment even if all of the hits are singles (it's only the fourth time this season an MLB player has had 5+ hits without making an out). It's an even greater accomplishment when four of the hits go for extra bases, and even greater than that when 3 of those hits are home runs.

Runs scored and runs driven in are semi-dependent on teammates' production, but it's still worth pointing out that each of those five hits drove in at least one run, and Lonnie tied a franchise record (set by Chris James in 1991) with 9 RBI on the night.

It was undoubtedly the best hitting performance of the season, by any player in MLB. There's not a worthwhile debate to be had about that one. As a more interesting question I ask:

Was it the best hitting performance in Indians history?

There are a variety of ways one might measure that, and depending on how you value context (in terms of who was on base when things happened, the score in the game at the time of various hits, etc.), there are multiple reasonable answers. Not many though. Here are the top ten candidates, as I see them (in chronological order)

Bobby Avila (6/20/1951 @ Boston): In a 14-8 win, Avila went 5 for 6 with 3 home runs, and a double. The home runs came in the 1st, 7th, and 9th innings, and he finished with 4 runs and 4 RBI. WPA: 0.189

Luke Easter (9/29/1951 vs. Detroit): In a 7-6 win, Easter went 4 for 6 with 2 home runs and a triple. He scored 3 runs and drove in 5. The first HR was a 6th-inning grand slam that put the Tribe ahead 5-4, the second was an 8th-inning solo shot that tied the game. WPA: 0.758 (second highest in franchise history for players with 10+ total bases)

Rocky Colavito (6/10/1959 @ Baltimore): In an 11-8 win, Colavito went 4 for 4 (plus a walk) with 4 home runs, making him the only player in franchise history to do that, and giving him a franchise record 16 total bases. He tied a franchise record by scoring 5 runs, and drove in 6. WPA: 0.304

John Romano (4/28/1964 @ Minnesota): In a 9-8 loss, Romano went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs, a double, and a walk. He drove in 3 runs and scored 3. That may not seem like a line that belongs, but if you believe in the importance of timing, know that his first HR pulled the Indians within a run in the 7th inning, and his second was a 2-run shot that put the Indians ahead by a run with two outs in the 9th. WPA: 0.880 (highest in franchise history for players with 10+ total bases).

George Hendrick (6/19/1973 vs. Detroit): In an 8-7 win, Hendrick went 4 for 4 with 3 home runs and a walk. He scored 4 runs, and drove in 4. His first HR put the Tribe ahead 1-0, his second pulled them back within a run after they'd fallen behind, and his third helped them come back again. Then in the 9th he hit a walk-off single. WPA: 0.725 (third highest in team history)

Joe Carter (8/29/1986 @ Boston): In a 7-3 win Carter went 5 for 5 with 3 home runs, scoring 3 runs and driving in 4. His first HR was a 2-run shot that put the Indians ahead 2-1, his second and third were solot shots that came in the 7th and 9th innings as the Tribe pulled away: WPA: 0.318

Casey Blake (7/7/2003 @ Minnesota): In 1 13-2 win, Blake went 5 for 5 with 2 home runs and 2 doubles. He scored 3 runs and had 7 RBI. His home runs came in the 7th and 9th, when the Indians were already well ahead. WPA: 0.213

Victor Martinez (7/16/2004 @ Seattle): In an 18-6 win, Martinez went 5 for 5 with 3 home runs (plus a walk). He scored 3 runs and drove in 7. The Indians winning comfortably by the end of the 3rd inning, limiting the impact of most of Victor's hits on the game, but it was still quite a performance. WPA: 0.130

Kelly Shoppach (7/30/2008 vs/ Detroit): In a 14-12 loss, Shoppach went 5 for 6 with 2 home runs and 3 doubles (and a walk). He scored 4 runs and drove in 3. His second HR tied the game in the 9th, and he tied a franchise record with 5 extra-base hits. WPA: 0.704

Lonnie Chisenhall (7/9/2014 @ Texas): In 1 17-7 win, Chisenhall went 5 for 5 with 3 home runs and a double. He scored 3 runs and tied a franchise record with 9 RBI. He became only the fourth player in MLB history with 5+ hits, 3+ HR, and 9+ RBI in a game, and the first since Fred Lynn in 1975. WPA: 0.166

-   -   -

For me, Chisenhall, Colavito, and Hendrick are the top three. Hendrick's production came in the closest game, and included that walk-off hit. Lonnie's overall production was stronger though, since he replaced Hendrick's walk with a double. It's not his fault the rest of his teammates played better, and the game was a romp. Ultimately though, I think Colavito's game should top the list. The home runs are a singular accomplishment in franchise history.

(Still, we just witnessed what I think is the second best hitting performance in team history, and the vert best that most of us were alive for. That's pretty awesome.)

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