Inspired by Naylor, Indians hit season highs

'I don’t think it’s a coincidence we went out there and did what we did'

June 29th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- Once again, the Indians had a choice: feel sorry for themselves or bounce right back.

The team watched its injured list reach eight players on Sunday when a gruesome injury to Josh Naylor brought tremendous sorrow to the clubhouse. But for a team that’s trying to be inspired by Naylor -- one of the most positive, energetic people in baseball -- that somber mood lasted only briefly before it turned into determination. And on Monday, that energy is what fueled the Indians to a 13-5 win over the Tigers at Progressive Field.

“A lot of times in sports and in life when you’re doing something -- you’re playing for something bigger than yourself -- good things tend to happen,” Indians catcher said. “And I don’t think it’s a coincidence we went out there and did what we did today.”

The Indians’ offense hadn’t put up a number that big all season. The last time the team scored at least 13 runs came on Aug. 28, 2020, against St. Louis (also 13 runs), which was also the last time the club recorded at least 19 hits (20). It was a performance backed by everyone in the lineup, as Cleveland put up crooked numbers in all but two of the eight innings it came up to the plate, four players logged three-hit nights and two others recorded two hits each.

“I was kind of worried about our energy,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We had a long trip. Yesterday was an emotional day. But our guys did a really good job of showing up and playing and having good energy.”

It surely was a difficult day for Naylor, and an enormous pill for the team to swallow. But out of everyone taking the field on Monday, it easily could have affected infielder the hardest.

It was impossible for Clement to hide his emotions as he watched Naylor rolling on the ground in pain on Sunday after he -- while playing second base -- was the other party in the collision. His head was down as he sat in the outfield grass and couldn’t help but feel responsible for playing a role in the injury. But a text from Naylor helped him move forward.

“He just told me to play my heart out,” Clement said. “The words of encouragement from Josh, that meant the world to me because I was involved in that accident, and it was really hard. But you know there is nobody that wanted to be out on that field more than Nayls tonight, so I just wanted to play my heart out like he told me.”

That’s exactly what he did. Clement logged his first career multihit game with two singles and three runs scored.

“I was glad for him because I know he's such a good kid and he's so conscientious,” Francona said. “I know he still feels -- I don't want to say 'responsible,' because that's not even close to fair. But he was part of it. And he kind of said, 'You know, my brother went down.' And you feel for him, because he's such a conscientious kid. I don't want him beating himself up, though.”

“What an incredible kid he is,” Hedges said of Clement. “Anything like that, it’s really tough to go through, but I’m really proud of him for how he’s handling it. We got his back just like we got Nayls’ back. But it was really cool to see him go out there and do his thing tonight.”

Francona has raved about his team’s resiliency all season, and it proved to be strong yet again on Monday. Despite having some of its best players on the IL, including Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Franmil Reyes, Roberto Pérez and now Naylor, this team has still been able to find a way to remain nine games over .500 and just two games back of the first-place White Sox in the American League Central.

“You got guys that come up and it’s their job to come in and pick that guy up that's lost,” Hedges said. “And all those guys that have come in and filled in some spots have done an outstanding job, and that's hats off to this organization and leadership here. They picked the right guys. And we got good people who care about each other, who work really hard [and] make a lot of good things happen.”