Walk-off HR eases pain of Reyes' injury

Slugger leaves during at-bat before Cesar's 10th-inning heroics

May 23rd, 2021

CLEVELAND -- Even with the crowd noise from fans being back in the stands circulating through the ballpark, anyone in the upper deck could hear yell out in pain during the sixth inning of the Indians 5-3 walk-off victory over the Twins on Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field.

Reyes took a hearty cut at an 89.9-mph slider from Twins reliever Jorge Alcala and fouled it straight behind him. But as he extended through his swing, he yelled out in pain, holding his side. He was removed in the middle of his at-bat with what the team later described as a left abdominal strain. He underwent imaging tests on Sunday and was placed on the 10-day injured list..

Reyes was one of the reasons the Indians were able to have a chance at walking away victorious. He started off the game with a two-run home in the first inning off starter Kenta Maeda. At that point, Reyes had seen four pitches from Maeda this season, three of which resulted in homers and one had been a single. He struck out against Maeda in the third before injuring himself during his plate appearance in the sixth. And after he went down, Cleveland put one of its strongest qualities of the season on display once again: Resiliency. Not just once, but three times.

Without one of the team’s power bats in the lineup, made sure to flex his muscles in Reyes’ absence. In the bottom of the 10th with a runner on second, Hernandez showed bunt on the first pitch and brought the infield in just to lace a two-run homer down the right-field line. Hernandez had gone hitless in his last seven at-bats leading up to his 10th-inning heroics that led to a water cooler shower at home plate.

“That was certainly a clutch hit,” manager Terry Francona said. “I mean, he did have a tough day at the plate, but he plays the game and he doesn’t quit playing.”

But that was just one instance of the team not quitting. It started back in the sixth inning when was called on to relieve , who’s not been at his best over his last few outings. With two runners on, Sandlin couldn’t find his command and hit a batter and permitted a free pass after picking up the second out of the inning on a strikeout. With the bases loaded, a full count and shaky control, Sandlin found a way to escape the jam by fanning Andrelton Simmons.

“I mean there were a lot of things that happened,” Francona said. “You can go all the way back to Sandlin’s inning where he was having trouble finding the plate, but he reeled it in enough and he competed. He got out of it or, who knows, we might’ve been home an hour ago.”

The young roster was able to grind through yet another obstacle as it has found a way to do all year. Because the bullpen had been worked hard after Triston McKenzie’s short start on Friday, the Indians were hoping to get the most out of rookie Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak, and they did. The two combined for three hitless frames, punctuated by Karinchak’s dominant two-strikeout inning in the 10th with the automatic runner starting the frame at second.

“It’s huge,” Francona said of Karinchak’s insane strikeout rate. “I mean it’s good at any time, but the way the rule is now, it’s a weapon. There’s no denying that. … These guys have been terrific, man. They give us chances to win on tough days.”