The vibe around the Indians on Friday of this week, compared to where it is now, could not be more night and day. Apparently a trip to Detroit to take […]
The vibe around the Indians on Friday of this week, compared to where it is now, could not be more night and day. Apparently a trip to Detroit to take on the Tigers was just the prescription the doctor ordered for Cleveland. The Tribe looked comfortable, and why shouldn’t they against the Motor City Kitties? The Indians (13-9) started right where they left off from last year against their AL Central foe, sweeping Detroit (9-10) to extend their winning streak to 20 games against the Tigers. That’s the second-longest streak against an MLB opponent since 1969, trailing only the Orioles’ 23-game streak against the Royals that year.
Below are five takeaways from Sunday’s 8-5 win, and the sweep as a whole:
1. Franmil Reyes is en fuego
Terry Francona called him “the connector” of the lineup earlier this season. Reyes is turning his skipper’s words into hard-hit results. After a 383-foot home run in the second inning to give Cleveland the early lead, Reyes outdid himself in the seventh on Sunday. In a 1-0 count, Reyes got an elevated fastball from Carson Fulmer and let it fly. The 25-year-old slugger mashed a 453-foot home run that hit a level of the Comerica Park batter’s eye shrubbery you rarely see. The exit velocity? 114.1.
“Absolutely not. That was…wow,” Tigers catcher Jacoby Jones said of Reyes’ second solo bomb. “We need to not throw him a strike. Ever.”
“We acquired him last year for a reason and he’s shown us what he’s capable of doing,” Francisco Lindor said. “This season, he’s definitely putting on a show for all of us.”
“Franmil’s been a force,” Terry Francona said.
Reyes is 11-for-his-last-22 with three home runs and seven runs batted in.
With his power, and the zone he’s in right now, that could prove to be very dangerous in a season this short. It’s in the hands of the Tribe’s top four in the lineup to give him an opportunity to bring runs in.
Reyes said Friday that in the beginning of the season, he was pulling everything and had to reinforce the fact that his power is in right-center field. “It gets to the point when I get my timing back and I finally got it. It’s unbelievable.”
2. Lindor puts up his first three-hit game of the season
It was a sight the Indians have been waiting for: a complete day at the plate from their superstar. After a double in the first inning, Lindor brought in Ramirez with a 381-foot liftoff to right field, giving him his fourth home run of the year. He wasn’t done yet, doubling into the left field corner to bring in Cesar Hernandez.
“Sometimes you just need a hit,” Francona said of Lindor, who raised his batting average from .212 to .233 and his OPS from .617 to .703 with his performance. “Sometimes it’s different for different people. Sometimes it’s a swing, sometimes you just need to get rewarded for something. Boy, it’s nice to see him doing that where he sits in the middle of the order.”
Lindor said he hasn’t made any major changes in the box. “I’m doing me, doing Francisco Lindor,” he said. There’s no mistake that Lindor’s production can spark the rest of the order. On Sunday, that was on full display.
3. Sunday featured winning in a different way, with hitting picking up pitching
There’s been a lot of pressure on Cleveland’s pitching staff, which has allowed more than four runs only four times in the team’s 22 games. The Indians offense hasn’t had to do much. In fact, the Tribe is 10-0 when they score three-or-more runs. On Sunday, though, fill-in starter Adam Plutko didn’t make it out of the third inning, lasting just 2 and ⅔. Detroit tied the game in the third, a spot that Cleveland could have unraveled in with the inconsistencies of the offense. The Tribe flipped that script.
“Usually, we score a couple runs, the other team scores a couple runs, then we just die a little bit,” Lindor said. “Today, we kept the energy up and we kept up putting runs every inning.”
Cleveland answered Detroit’s rally with one run in the fifth, three in the sixth and another in the seventh.
“(This was) a huge team win all across the board,” Plutko said. “I think every starter would like us to all go seven (innings) but the fact that we can duke it out and do what we did tonight, it was awesome.”
“We needed to do some things today or we lose that game,” Francona said. “When we’re shaking hands and your starter goes 2 and ⅔ (innings), that’s a pretty good day.”
4. The bullpen got the job done
With how dominant the Indians starting rotation has been, putting up 17 straight quality starts to open the season, the bullpen hasn’t been relied upon for heavy workloads. The story was different on Sunday, with Tribe relievers collecting 6 and ⅓ innings. It was far more good than bad, with Phil Maton (1.1), Oliver Perez (1.0), Cam Hill (1.1) and James Karinchak (1.2) delivering scoreless outings.
“The guys did great. We start out, that’s earlier than where we’ve been normally, especially in a win,” Francona said. “Maton comes out and pitches well. Cam Hill pitched well. Karinchak did a really good job.”
Maton played a critical role entering in the third and inheriting two baserunners.
“In those situations, especially being in a tie game, it’s more importantly (about) just putting the fire out and getting things back to neutral,” Maton said.
“Velocity’s kind of ticked back up to where it was my rookie year,” he added when discussing his stuff. “I’m really happy with the way my cutter’s moving right now and my curveball, even the sinker. I just feel like I’m really happy with where my pitches are right now. A lot of that’s courtesy of the player development staff here. They’ve done a phenomenal job of getting me to where I’m at right now. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
5. This was a needed weekend
With the Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac drama of the last week, questions surrounded the Indians of how they would respond after getting swept by the Cubs, and outscored 14-3 in the two-game set. Cleveland now just stands a game back of the first-place Twins, and with a week ahead against the Pirates and Tigers before hosting Minnesota, the set-up is there for the Tribe to capitalize. Lindor commented on Sunday being a fun game because of the team’s energy.
Reyes said everyone was supporting each other from the dugout. You could hear the Indians’ cheers through the SportsTime Ohio telecast. Francona said Friday that Comerica Park’s expanded dugouts allow teams to sit together in them instead of being spaced between the dugout and the stands. That’s something Francona said he felt the Indians benefited off, allowing them to feed off one another in moments throughout the game.
Some Extra Tidbits:
- The Indians are targeting a Tuesday return for catcher Roberto Perez. He has missed the last 19 games due to a right shoulder injury. While Sandy Leon homered and drew two walks on Sunday, Cleveland’s been lacking consistent offense at the catcher spot. Perez’s defense speaks for itself, as does his ability to call a game, and while he’s not a great bat, he’s still an upgrade offensively. Last year, the Tribe catcher put up a career-high 24 home runs.
- Delino DeShields added two hits on Sunday, including a bunt single in the sixth inning to push the line back to the top of the order and continue what turned out to be a three-run frame. DeShields is hitting .333 in seven games.
“He’s doing a really good job,” Francona said. “He’s running stuff down in center. He’s energetic on the bases. As long as he hits the ball to right field, and doesn’t try to do too much, he’s gonna be just fine.”
Cleveland has an off-day on Monday, before a matchup with the Pirates, who will have played only twice in the last eight days due to opponents’ coronavirus circumstances when they take on the Tribe on Tuesday. After their series with the Cardinals was knocked out to start last week, Pittsburgh was two games into their four-game set with the Reds before a Cincinnati player contracted COVID-19. The two teams were scheduled to play a doubleheader Monday, but Major League Baseball announced Sunday that they would not play, as reported first by MLB.com’s Adam Berry.
The Pirates rotation will be JT Brubaker, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams. Cleveland will counter with Carrasco, Civale and Bieber. The Indians do not need a fifth starter until Saturday against the Tigers. More info to come on that, but it is unlikely to be Plesac or Clevinger barring an unforeseen circumstance or injury.