Over the last few days, the Indians often referenced that their hitters have lost confidence in themselves. However, the biggest thing that’s kept slugger Franmil Reyes going is the trust his teammates have in him. When he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with the score tied at 2-2 on Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park, Carlos Carrasco yelled out, “Let’s go, you can do this. You can hit it out of the park.”
“I said, ‘Cookie, let me get a base hit first,’” Reyes said. “He said, ‘No, you can hit it. Let’s go!’”
Carrasco was right.
With Carlos Santana on first, Reyes launched a 94.9-mph sinker from Reds reliever Nate Jones over the center-field wall, lifting the Indians to a 4-2 victory over Cleveland and snapping the their four-game losing streak.
Although the team has struggled collectively, the biggest sigh of relief may have come from Reyes himself. The Tribe slugger entered the night having gone 6-for-35 in his first 10 games of the season, without a home run. Reyes raked during Spring Training in February and March, but he was not able to face live pitching over the 3 1/2-month pause due to COVID-19, which led to his timing being off entering Summer Camp. Despite his struggles, he credits his teammates for keeping him going.
“Like the motor of the car, or of the motorcycle, my motor has been my teammates,” Reyes said. “My mind, it was not good. I don’t know what I was thinking every time I went to the plate, but [I was] not with a plan. But those teammates right there are the best teammates I’ve ever played with. I am very grateful to have them with me, because they never let me put my head down.”
Reyes was hitless in his last 10 at-bats entering Tuesday. Sandy Alomar Jr., who managed in place of Terry Francona, was contemplating giving Reyes the day off to help him clear his head.
“He convinced me yesterday,” Alomar Jr. said. “I was trying to give him an off-day. That way he can work on some things. He was very adamant about, 'No, I want to play. I want to go through this.' Like I was saying before, some of those guys want to play and get out of funks. And hey, glad he did, because he came up big.”
So often, players snap an offensive slump on an infield hit or a bloop single that somehow finds a way to fall in. But when the entire Indians lineup fell silent over the past week, maybe all it took was an unconventional seventh inning to get some momentum back in their favor.
The Tribe entered the frame trailing by two runs, but an error, three walks and an infield single -- in an inning where the ball only once got beyond the infield dirt -- allowed Cleveland to tie the game, setting up Reyes to play hero in the eighth.
“Of course,” Reyes said when asked if one hit can snap a skid. “Honestly, why? Because I give something to my team that makes everybody hype. That makes me feel good that I did something for my team. Not just for myself. 100 percent yeah. There’s going to be a lot more confidence for the next at-bat.”
The team’s latest win came in a nearly record-breaking Shane Bieber start, though it was human by the skyward standards he's set in 2020. In his third outing on Tuesday, the 25-year-old gave Cleveland its 11th quality start in 12 games with two earned runs on five hits through 7 2/3 frames. Bieber's eight strikeouts bumped his season total to 35 -- the third most by a pitcher in his first three outings since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Only Nolan Ryan (37, 1973) and Gerit Cole (36, 2018) compiled more.
While Bieber is 3-0 to start the year, the offense hasn’t provided much run support for his counterparts over the past week. Despite the rut, Bieber seems confident that Tuesday could be the start of a momentum shift.
“I know some guys may be frustrated,” he said, “but as long as we keep at it, stick to the process and keep working hard, I think good things are gonna happen. I think that’s what we saw later in the game. Whether guys were getting hits or not, there were a ton of really good at-bats, especially late in the game that came up really clutch. So [I'm] definitely excited for the direction that we’re going in.”