Covering the Bases: Game 32

GomesSome notes and quotes from Friday’s 7-6 win over the Twins.

FIRST: Yan Gomes didn’t waste any time.

When the catcher received an 84-mph slider to begin his at-bat against Twins righty Ricky Nolasco in the second inning, Gomes jumped on it. He pulled it deep over left field and then over the 19-foot wall. Then, Gomes did something he doesn’t normally do.

“If you see the replay,” Gomes said, “as soon as I hit it, I’ve never done it before, but I kind of did a little [exhale], like, ‘Shoot, man. About time,’ going around those bases.”

It’s hard to blame Gomes for that reaction.

Heading into Friday’s game against the Twins, Gomes was mired in an 0-for-20 funk in the batter’s box. Since April 25, the catcher was only 2-for-42 with 11 strikeouts. His slump, which included an 0-for-7 showing in Wednesday’s 16-inning marathon, reached a point where manager Terry Francona actually met with Gomes on Friday before the game.

“We were actually talking today a little bit,” Francona said. “It’s kind of the normal, [what] you see when a guy’s struggling. Trying to do too much. Trying to maybe go 3-for-1 and you can’t do that. When he lined out the other day in Houston, you could tell by his body language that it wasn’t just the lineout, but it was the at-bats leading up to it the last couple days. That’s never helpful. It’s human nature, and I get it.

“I just tried to remind him a little bit that we know he’s really good and he’ll get every bit as hot as he got cold. And, just try to remember the things he does really well, because for a relatively inexperienced Major League catcher, he’s done a fabulous job of running the staff, caring about the staff, hustling to first, blocking balls. I just wanted to remind him of that.”

So, when Gomes launched his two-run home run in the second inning, it’s safe to say that the blast included a sense of relief. The catcher ended the evening 1-for-3 with a walk in what was a much-needed performance for him mentally.

“The last couple of series,” Gomes said, “it’s been tough on the offensive side, just trying to help anything with the team. When that kind of thing happens, you definitely want to, in a way, try harder. I’m trying to take every at-bat for what it is, especially when you do something good. Getting some runs on the board definitely boosts your confidence a little bit.”

Asked about Gomes’ home run, Francona flashed a smile.

“Good for him. He’s been working so hard,” Francona said. “It’s just nice to see him have something to show for it. It obviously helps us, but good for him. He’s going to hit. He knows it, we know it. It’s still good for him.”

SECOND: Bryan Shaw was booed by the Progressive Field crowd as he walked off the field in the eighth inning on Friday night. It was in response to a rough day at the office, but it should be noted that it’s been a while since the setup man had one of those.

Heading into Friday’s appearance, Shaw had a 0.77 ERA and .135 opponents’ average over his past dozen outings (11.2 IP). The right-hander had not given up a run yet in May. So, when Shaw allowed two hits (one home run) and walked a pair (one intentionally) in the eighth inning, it was his first setback in some time.

It also set up a huge situation for Zach McAllister. Bases loaded. One out. Cleveland losing, 5-4.

“Anyone who is a competitor wants to be in those situations,” McAllister said. “It’s fun to be able to get the ball. Tito had the confidence in me to get guys out in those situations. It’s definitely a good thing.”

Against Oswaldo Arcia, the sequence went…

97 mph fastball: Foul ball
97 mph fastball: Called strike
97 mph fastball: Ball
84 mph curve: Swinging strike

Against Kurt Suzuki, the sequence went…

97 mph fastball: Foul
96 mph fastball: Ball
97 mph fastball: Foul
83 mph curve: Ball
97 mph fastball: Swinging strike

“McAllister,” Francona said, “a really good job there.”

No kidding.

THIRD: McAllister’s stop in the top of the eighth paid off in the form of a three-run outburst by the Indians in the home half of the inning.

“It was awesome,” McAllister said, “sitting down there and seeing that. Shaw has done that for me a couple times already, where he’s picked me up and gotten me out of a few jams. For us to be able to come out and score, it’s an awesome feeling.”

Francisco Lindor opened the inning with a single and later stole second. Jose Ramirez then drew a one-out walk. That set things up for Marlon Byrd, who drilled a pitch from Trevor May deep to center, where it fell just over the glove of Danny Santana. Lindor and Ramirez scored with a few steps of one another, and the Indians took a 6-5 lead.

“In that situation, I’m looking for him to hopefully make a mistake,” Byrd said. “You’re talking about a 96-mph fastball. You’re talking about the changeup he threw me threw me the second pitch, which I thought he was going to wait until about two strikes. His breaking ball, he usually buries. He throws it, it looks like a strike and ends up being a ball. I think maybe that’s the only one he wanted back — the breaking ball that he left up.”

Juan Uribe followed with with an RBI single, which proved to be critical. In the ninth, Cody Allen allowed one run, but held on for the save.

“The add-on run ended up being huge,” Francona said. “We talk about it all the time: Just keep playing, because you don’t know what’s enough. And we did just enough.”

HOME: So much happened in this one offensively that it’d be easy to overlook the outing by Josh Tomlin. No, it wasn’t great, but the fact that he lasted 6.1 innings was impressive, considering how his start began.

In the first, Miguel Sano turned a Tomlin pitch into a 464-foot home run, which was baseball’s fourth-longest shot of the season, per Statcast.

“I’ll pick it up on the way home,” Francona quipped.

In the second, Byung Ho Park crushed a pitch from Tomlin 112 mph off the bat and sent it 458 feet. One inning later, Park came through again — this time sending Tomlin offering 411 feet for his second shot of the game.

“That team took some pretty big swings off of me today,” Tomlin said. “So, I knew my margin of error was pretty slim. I feel like whenever I do try to make my stuff a little bit better than what it is, then that’s when I do make mistakes. I get around the ball. My command is not as good. That’s just a mental side of me that I lost a bit in those first three innings.”

After that second Park bomb, though, Tomlin held Minnesota to an 0-for-12 showing, buying time for Cleveland to come back. Gomes came through with his two-run homer in the second. Jason Kipnis added a solo shot in the third. Byrd tied it up with a sac fly in the sixth. That set things up for the late rally.

“It was a good game to win, because it was a hard game to win,” Francona said. “Josh, kinda uncharacteristically early, they were hitting him pretty hard. But then, to his credit, he stayed in there for a while, got us through 6 1/3, kept the game right where it needed to be.”

EXTRAS: Oh, yeah, and Lindor did this in the fourth…

051316_Frankie_med

Said Tomlin: “I thought it was a hit. It was a slow roller and that guy is pretty fast. Seeing him come in, I knew he was going to make the play. I just didn’t know if it was going to be in time, because of the runner. It was smooth. It was pretty impressive to watch. I had a front-row seat and it was pretty awesome.”

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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