KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After the Cincinnati Reds lost a five-run lead and were handed a walk-off loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, Jonathan India told manager David Bell that he was going to be in the starting lineup Wednesday.
India was scratched from Monday’s lineup with right ankle soreness. He didn’t look 100% when he was running down the first-base line during an inning-ending double play in the fourth inning Tuesday and he was taken out for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.
Sure, he was playing through some pain, but there was no question in his mind that he was fine to start Wednesday.
He played a big part in the Reds’ 5-2 win, reaching base in four of his five plate appearances and delivering the go-ahead hit with a two-run double in the seventh inning.
“He told me he was playing today, and it made it easy for me,” Bell said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s because of how much he wants to play. He loves it, and he’s just become an important player on our team. It’s been like that now for a while.”
India isn’t unique in that he’s playing through some pain. Many players are usually dealing with something at this point in the season. India stands out because he continues to dominate despite injuries.
India tweaked his shoulder on July 1 when he slid to stop a ground ball. Bell called it a “significant” injury, but India convinced him and a trainer he was healthy enough to remain in the game as he mimicked a swing at second base.
The ankle soreness may have stemmed from last Sunday when Javier Báez slid into second base, tagging from first on a flyout. If that wasn’t enough, India had another injury scare in the fourth inning Wednesday. Trying to turn an inning-ending double play at second base, India hit his hand on Ryan O’Hearn’s helmet, who was in the middle of a popup slide.
“I feel OK,” India said. “That’s really all I’ve got. Not 100%, but I feel OK to play.”
When India was asked what it would take to keep him out of the lineup, he laughed. His response: “A lot.”
That’s good news for the Reds, especially with the way he’s hitting. He ranks ninth in the Majors with a .392 on-base percentage, slightly ahead of teammates Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker.
“There is a real toughness there,” Bell said. “I think it comes from a real desire to want to play the game. A lot of times, you can find a way to get through things when you know that no matter what is going on, you can contribute to a game or to a team. I think he has that confidence.
“There’s a line where you’re injured and you can’t do it, but up until that line, he’s going to do everything he can to be in there.”
In the 30 games since India was moved to the leadoff spot on June 5, he is batting .300 with a .430 on-base percentage (OBP). He’s scored 25 runs, which is the second-most in the National League in that stretch, and he’s nearly walked (21) as much as he’s struck out (31).
He's reached base at least once in 26 of those 30 games.
Among NL rookies, he ranks third in WAR (wins above replacement), according to FanGraphs, trailing only pitchers Trevor Rogers (Miami) and Ian Anderson (Atlanta).
“I love watching him play,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “He plays so hard in the field, at the plate and everything in between. He runs the bases as hard or harder than anybody we have. He just makes plays, man.”