WASHINGTON -- There’s no doubt the Indians would much rather have spent their Saturday afternoon fighting for a playoff spot, but when those chances were erased the night before, they were able to get a look at some of the younger talent that could make an impact next season and beyond.
After scuffling the last few days, the Tribe’s offense did its best to chip away at an early nine-run hole, launching four homers to break the franchise record for the most home runs in a single season (221), set in 2000. But the long balls weren’t enough to overcome the deficit, and the Indians extended their losing streak to four games in a 10-7 loss to the Nationals on Saturday.
“I think collectively as a team, doing that is pretty special at any point, whether there’s controversy [about the number of home runs hit this year] or not,” Jordan Luplow said. “I think it’s a pretty cool thing.”
Luplow started the slugfest with a solo shot before hitting the record-breaking 222nd homer in the ninth. The 26-year-old returned from a right hamstring strain on Sept. 2 and has since logged a 1.277 OPS in 16 games. In 128 at-bats against left-handers this season, he’s hit .320, with a 1.181 OPS.
“Luplow, since he came back [from Triple-A on April 28], has been a middle-of-the-order presence against left-hand pitching,” manager Terry Francona said. “Does that grown into more, who knows? What he does for us is really important.”
Although Francona had said he would not use Franmil Reyes in the outfield over the weekend, the team’s first “meaningless” game in 667 games allowed the Tribe to start testing the waters with their potential future right fielder. It didn’t talk long for him to prove how much his bat was missed on Friday, when the Indians played without a designated hitter in a National League ballpark.
“The adrenaline was different,” Reyes said of playing the field for the second time with the Indians this season. “When you go down there, you make good plays, the adrenaline is different when you come to hit than just sitting there. ... It's not the same.”
In the fifth inning, Reyes hit a two-run homer to left field, his 37th, to help cut Washington’s lead to four. The Indians have been clear that they do not envision using him strictly as a DH in the future; his right-handed power bat gives the club something to look forward to all the way through 2024, when he’s first eligible for free agency.
“That's something that [I was told] since the first time I got here,” Reyes said. “I wouldn't be surprised with that. I'm still young. I can still play in the outfield, and I would be happy to be back there, because I'm just in this situation, but I don't like to just be sitting there in the DH spot.”
The Indians were also able to witness some power from one of their prospects. Catcher Eric Haase, who hit a career-high 28 homers in 102 games for Triple-A Columbus this season, blasted his first long ball in the big leagues a projected 432 feet off Nationals starter Patrick Corbin in the fourth.
“Just to get that one out of the way, it’s great,” Haase said. “Starting today, prepare like how I did all year. My at-bats felt better today.
“This is what I pretty much work for, for my family. I’ve sacrificed a lot to be here. To get the opportunity and to put a good swing on it like that, it’s great.”