Bradley, Indians come up big to sweep Tigers

June 23rd, 2019

CLEVELAND -- expected to be overwhelmed with emotion before his first big league at-bat. He wasn’t quite sure how he was going to handle it, saying, “I’m gonna have to take a lot of deep breaths. It might take me a second to get in the box. Just to know that this childhood dream is coming true is unreal.”

It took just two pitches of his first plate appearance in the second inning before he sent a long, looping fly ball that dropped into the left-field corner and bounced over the wall. In his first at-bat, he logged his first hit and knocked in his first run that sparked the Tribe’s offense during an 8-3 victory over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. It also secured Cleveland’s second series sweep of Detroit in the past 10 days, as the Indians improved to a season-best seven games over .500.

“It’s just an unreal moment,” Bradley said. “All the guys congratulating me, and I mean, it still doesn’t feel real to me yet. ... I mean, just to be able to be up here and to be able to get a hit, it means the world to me.”

Bradley cruised into second base, paused for a moment and raised his hands high above his head, celebrating in the direction of his dugout while his family (mom, two sisters, mom's friend and his longtime buddy) jumped and cheered in the stands.

“I’m about to go see them, and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be kind of emotional,” Bradley said after the game.

The 23-year-old lined out to the pitcher in his second at-bat, struck out in his third and drew a walk in the bottom of the eighth. Jake Bauers then came in as a pinch-runner and Bradley left the field to a nice ovation to cap off his MLB debut.

“Just unreal,” Bradley said about the roaring round of applause. “I think it’s gonna kick in for me at some point today that today actually happened. I mean, it’s a day I’ll never forget.”

While Indians manager Terry Francona was speaking with the media outside of the clubhouse after the win, the celebration of Bradley’s first hit could be heard down the halls, as he was doused with beer in the shower.

“Hey, it’s all part of it,” Bradley said. “It’s all fun. [I’m] having a good time with these guys.”

He became the first Indians player to record a hit in his first MLB plate appearance since Jerad Head on Aug. 28, 2011, and the first to double in his first plate appearance since pitcher Charley Suche on Sept. 18, 1938.

“It was nice to see the way the crowd reacted to it,” Francona said. “You only have one first time. I told him like I’ve told Oscar [Mercado] and all the other younger guys, ‘This is great. We love this. You’ve got to be open to listening.’ There were some things that happened today that are firsts, and I’m confident he’ll be ready to listen and try to get better.”

His double in the second inning tied the game at 1 and started a five-run inning after Indians starter Zach Plesac allowed a leadoff homer -- his only run allowed on five hits through seven innings -- to JaCoby Jones in the first.

Two runs scored on Kevin Plawecki’s infield single, Francisco Lindor doubled in a run and Mercado recorded an RBI single in the second before Carlos Santana launched his 17th homer of the season in the fifth. Jason Kipnis tacked on two more runs with a single to left in the eighth.

Since the calendar flipped to June, the Indians’ bats have come alive, scoring at least five runs in 12 of their last 20 contests (averaging 5.6 runs per game in that span). After starting the season near the bottom of every offensive category, the Indians entered Sunday owning the best slugging percentage (.501) and OPS (.823) in the American League this month. The victory improved their record to 14-6 (.700) in June, which is the best winning percentage in the American League this month.

“It’s fluid,” Francona said of his offense. “I thought we had a good day offensively, now we need to have a good day tomorrow.”