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Davis, known for WS HR, brings speed to ALDS

October 4, 2018

HOUSTON -- Rajai Davis was at dinner outside Cleveland on Tuesday evening, when he was approached by some Indians fans in the restaurant. They asked if they could take a picture with the veteran outfielder and then told their own story of witnessing his iconic home run off Albertin Chapman

HOUSTON -- Rajai Davis was at dinner outside Cleveland on Tuesday evening, when he was approached by some Indians fans in the restaurant. They asked if they could take a picture with the veteran outfielder and then told their own story of witnessing his iconic home run off Albertin Chapman in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Cubs.
"That happens pretty often," Davis said with a smile on Thursday. "People remember where they were, what they were doing. It's something special."
Davis will once again have a chance to impact the Tribe in October.
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
Before Cleveland's players took the field at Minute Maid Park for Thursday's workout, Indians manager Terry Francona informed Davis that he would be on the roster for the American League Division Series against the Astros. The team's decision-makers were debating between carrying Davis (a weapon on the bases) or Erik Gonzalez (a utility man and the team's only true backup shortstop).
In the end, Francona felt that having Davis as a stolen-base threat off the bench was more important that maintaining a safety net for the Indians' infield. This season, the Tribe led the Majors in steals (135) for the first time in franchise history and became the first Cleveland team to have four players with at least 20 steals since the Naps of 1911.
That offensive element can be critical on a stage where a small event can have a major influence on a game's outcome.
"Nobody has a crystal ball," Francona said. "But, who could impact a series? We felt like Raj had a better chance. It's nothing against Gonzie. But, if Gonzie gets in [the game], that meant something went wrong. If something goes wrong, we might be kicking ourselves, but I think we felt like the risk is worth the reward."
Within the Indians' surplus of steals, Jose Ramirez led the way with 34, followed by Francisco Lindor (25), Greg Allen (21) and Davis (21). As a team, Cleveland's 78.9 percent success rate ranked third in the American League, while the team's 13.7 base runs above average (an all-encompassing baserunning metric) ranked second in the Majors.
Speed in October can be a difference-maker.

"It's going to be huge," Davis said. "That plays a factor in how guys pitch to the next guy that's at the plate. When you know a guy is quick or he can steal a bag, nobody wants to give up 90 feet. Obviously, we're trying to score runs. If that affects the pitcher and the way he thinks, the way he delivers pitches, and hopefully helps our hitters get better pitches to hit, that only benefits the team."
The Astros are hoping catcher Martin Maldonado and his 49-percent caught-stealing rate can help neutralize that aspect of the Cleveland's attack.
"If they want to test us on the bases and Martin's catching," Astros manager AJ Hinch said, "they're going up against the best-throwing catcher in baseball. With the work from our pitchers and the way that [Maldonado] can shut down the running game, it's a huge dilemma for the other side."
Worth noting
• Catcher Yan Gomes still has two stitches in his right thumb -- due to a laceration sustained on Saturday in Kansas City -- but the All-Star is expected to be behind the plate for Game 1 on Friday. Gomes has been hitting with no issues, and the catcher threw to bases during Thursday's workout at Minute Maid Park without a bandage on the digit.
"He had a completely normal workout. He's fine," Francona said. "There are no limitations, and it won't get in the way."
• Besides backup catcher Roberto Perez and Davis, the Indians' bench for the ALDS will feature Allen, Brandon Guyer and Yandy Diaz. Francona said that Diaz, specifically, was carried to give Cleveland an additional pinch-hitting option against Houston reliever Tony Sipp.
"It gives us protection against them bringing in a lefty," Francona said. "It's another guy that can play the infield, but it's a guy that really swings the bat really well against left-handers. That's basically why he's there."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.