Covering the Bases: Game 38

SantanaSome notes and quotes from Thursday’s 7-2 win over the Reds.

FIRST: Well, that was something.

I’d wager that five days ago you, loyal Indians fan, were worried about Cleveland’s offense. After four games against the Reds, your concerns should be lessened by at least a modest margin. Yes, Cincinnati’s pitching staff is in shambles, and its bullpen is historically bad at the moment, but the Tribe, as good teams should do, took full advantage.

“The guys are feeding off each other,” Indians outfielder Rajai Davis said. “One guy gets a hit and it’s, ‘Oh, let me do that.'”

Cleveland did that a lot over the past four days. On Monday, the Indians scored 15 runs. On Tuesday, it was 13. Wednesday saw eight more cross the plate. Thursday? Seven. That’s 43 runs for the Indians to 16 runs for the Reds. The Tribe collected 56 hits, including 20 extra-base hits, and turned in a .346/.423/.556 slash line.

So, go celebrate, Cleveland. The Indians have won the 2016 Ohio Cup!

“We’ve been playing really, really exceptional,” Davis said. “Our offense has been dynamic. A lot of guys are hitting. A lot of guys hitting extra-base hits. We’re just very, very competitive right now.”

Cincinnati’s troubles, combined with Cleveland’s hot streak, had quite the impact on the Indians’ overall offensive showing this season.

Heading into this four-game, home-and-home series, Cleveland was sporting a .247/.307/.388 slash line. Now? It looks like .259/.322/.408. That team batting average and on-base percentage each ranked fourth in the American League, as of this writing. The Indians’ 186 runs scored were tied for the second-most runs in the AL.

“We seem to get contributions all over the place,” Indians manager Terry Francona said, “which I think is kind of how we have to be. We’ve got to keep the line moving and play like that. We did OK, but now we’ll move quickly to the next team, because we’ve got a good team to play tomorrow. So, we’ll be ready to do that.”

SECOND: The Ohio Cup would not be complete with the MOP. That would be the series’ Most Outstanding Player, which is voted upon by media members from the Reds and Indians each year.

[Handed envelope]

And Most Outstanding Player for the 2016 Ohio Cup goes to…

[Opens envelope]

… Rajai Davis!

Over the past four games, all Davis did was reach base 15 times in 22 plate appearances. He reached four times on Monday, five times on Tuesday, belted a pair of homers Wednesday and then doubled twice Thursday. The outfielder had two steals, five extra-base hits, six walks, nine RBIs and 10 runs scored.

After his day off Sunday, Davis said he honed in on a certain mind-set.

“I think it’s more of a one-on-one battle,” he said. “Just me against the pitcher. May the best man win.”

In four games, Davis raised his season OPS to .763 from .578. His on-base percentage climbed to .323 from .248 in that span. Francisco Lindor (11-for-21) also had a great series, but Davis deserved to be named the MOP.

Davis joins an esteemed list of past MOPs that includes Jason Kipnis (2015), Kristopher Negron (2014), Asdrubal Cabrera (2011), Shin-Soo Choo (2010), Ramon Hernandez (2009) and Adam Dunn (2008). No, I don’t know why the voting stopped from ’12-13. I do know that the MOP used to come with a little trophy. If I remember correctly, it used to plug in and light up, too.

“That’s exactly what I wanted,” quipped Davis.

THIRD: With no designated hitter in the National League setting, Francona is forced to choose between Mike Napoli or Carlos Santana for first base. Napoli got the nod on Wednesday and Santana was picked for Thursday.

Tito certainly made the right call.

“Santana, he went ahead and hit two bombs today,” Davis said. “That’s stepping it up.”

Back in the cleanup spot, Santana launched a two-run home run in each of the fourth and fifth innings. The first one spotted Cleveland a 2-0 lead and the next one punctuated a four-run outburst to give the team a 6-2 advantage.

“I feel comfortable right now and I’m working hard,” Santana said. “I was trying to come back and help my team. Right now, I feel comfortable. I understand it’s a long season, so I have to keep it up.”

On April 19, Santana’s season line was at its low point: .154 average and .594 OPS. In the next 25 games, the switch-hitter posted a .261 average and an .818 OPS, while bouncing between leading off and hitting in the middle. That showing came before his multi-homer outburst on Thursday, when he also drew a walk.

“We just want him to hit wherever he is [in the lineup],” Francona said. “Tonight, he stayed nice and short. Hopefully, he can continue that, because if he starts doing that, man, it’s just such a connector in our lineup wherever he’s at.”

HOME: Am I burying the lede tonight, or what?

You’ve read 800 words and I haven’t even mentioned the best part of tonight’s win for the Indians. Josh Tomlin — statistically one of the best hitters in Indians history (more on that in a second) — delivered two (!) hits for Cleveland in the victory. He singled. He doubled. He scored a run.

“It’s fun to be a part of the whole game,” Tomlin said with a smirk.

Tomlin became the first Cleveland pitcher to have two hits, including a double, in a game since Steve Dunning did so against Milwaukee on Sept. 6, 1972. Do you know who the last Indians pitcher was to get two hits in a game? No? Well, don’t feel bad, Tomlin didn’t know, either.

“I would guess either Kluber or Sabathia,” Tomlin said.

Nope. It was JOSH TOMLIN, back on June 28, 2011, against Arizona.

“Oh, really?” Tomlin said with a laugh. “Cool.”

Here are the greatest hitters in Indians’ history (min. 10 at-bats):

  1. Matt Carson, .636 average (11 at-bats)
  2. Josh Tomlin, .600 average (10 at-bats)
  3. Sam Horn, .455 average (33 at-bats)

I mean, Shoeless Joe Jackson is 10th on that list. Tris Speaker is 15th. Nap Lajoie? Try 24th. They’ve got nothing on Joltin’ Josh Tomlin.

The only problem now is that Cleveland is traveling to Boston for a weekend series. That means the DH is back in play for the Tribe. Francona was asked if Tomlin will be considered for that job on Friday.

“He will probably want to, but no,” the manager said with a laugh.

Tomlin agreed that a day off was a god idea.

“My legs are shot,” he said.

Oh, and Tomlin also logged 7.2 innings, in which he struck out seven, scattered five hits, issued one walk and held the Reds to two runs. He’s 6-0 on the season for the Indians. That makes him the first Tribe starter to begin a season with a 6-0 ledger since Cliff Lee did it in 2008.

“He’s easy to pull for,” Francona said. “He’s one of the better teammates I’ve ever seen. He’ll do anything to try to help you win. That’s all he cares about is trying to win. … We’re pretty fortunate because early on, he’s giving us a big lift coming out of the gate.”

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

2 Comments

hey ya know I’ve been a Cleveland baseball junkie for as long as I could read (since the late 80s) and your coverage is most insightful and interesting. Keep it up!

Napoli has the same diseise that ended Swishers career, they both need glasses and need to get their eyes checked.

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