The regular season couldn’t have started fast enough for Franmil Reyes when he was in Arizona back in March. The Tribe slugger was squaring up nearly every pitch in the zone, but because the start of the season was postponed, he lost his timing at the dish and his mechanics weren’t quite in sync. But after struggling through the first two weeks of the 2020 season, Reyes is confident his swing is back in Spring Training form.
Backed by a two-run monster shot and an RBI single by Reyes, the Indians’ bats exploded for a 10-5 victory over the Tigers on Friday night at Comerica Park. Dating back to last season, Cleveland has taken 18 straight games from Detroit, setting a franchise record for the longest winning streak versus a single opponent.
“Yeah, of course. It’s there,” Reyes said, when asked if he feels as good as he did during Cactus League play. “I’m seeing very good pitches, I’m recognizing my pitch and I’m swinging at strikes. At the beginning, it was not like that. I was swinging at everything they threw, but now I’m focused on my zone. I’m really grateful that I’m there.”
From Opening Day through Aug. 6, Reyes had a chase rate of 34 percent, according to Statcast. But after he started to settle in at the plate, he improved that to a 25.6 percent chase rate from Aug. 7 through Thursday.
“The beginning of the season, I was trying to pull basically every ball, and I was not understanding at that point my power is right-center,” Reyes said. “When I started using it again, I got jammed on some pitches. A lot of check swings that were hits. It gets to the point when I [needed] my timing back, and I finally got it. It’s unbelievable.”
Now, Reyes' bat has been nearly unstoppable. In his last 26 at-bats, he has recorded 14 hits (a .538 average), with two doubles, two homers and nine RBIs, including a 2-for-4 night in the series opener against the Tigers.
“I’m not the smartest person in the world. I know that,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But that’s why you’re patient, because if you’re not, you miss out on potentially some really good baseball or some production.”
Reyes got the Indians on the board first in the second inning by launching the third-longest homer of his career -- an estimated 462-foot bomb over the center-field wall off his cousin, Iván Nova. But when Detroit took a one-run lead in the third, Reyes knotted the score at 3 with a 111.0 mph RBI single up the middle.
From there, the rest of the bats followed Reyes' lead. The Tribe’s offense entered the game in last place in the Majors in batting average (.195), OPS (.596) and runs per game (3.3). Reyes provided the much-needed spark, while Domingo Santana also blasted a three-run homer amid a six-run fourth inning and Tyler Naquin logged a two-run triple in the seventh.
“Actually, me and him were in [batting practice] talking about how we were gonna stay in the middle of the field,” Naquin said. “And he was telling me, ‘Stay in that left-center gap,’ and sure enough, he hit a homer to dead center, hit a line drive up the center, and I hit a line drive in the opposite-way gap. So it’s always fun when our plan comes together.”
The Indians’ 18-game winning streak against the Tigers is tied for the second-longest streak against a single opponent in the Majors since 1969. The Yankees also have an active 18-game winning streak against the Orioles. The Tribe has outscored Detroit 117-37 during this stretch. Now, Cleveland hopes that this will be a fresh start for an offense that has struggled to find its footing.
“It feels great,” Reyes said. “Like I told you guys, we're going to be good. We have a great team and we always, always give our heart out there, and we give our 100 percent.”