CLEVELAND -- Over the past few seasons, the Indians’ bats have proven that they can produce a deafening silence for short- or long-term stretches. And when Cleveland was in the middle of one of its worst skids in September of last season, José Ramírez almost single-handedly put the offense back on track.
Now, it’s Franmil Reyes’ turn to do the same.
The Indians couldn’t afford a four-game sweep in the middle of a crucial homestand against the White Sox, Yankees and Twins. So, Reyes assured that wouldn’t happen with a go-ahead, three-run homer, his second triple of the series and his first career stolen base to help lift Cleveland to a 7-3 victory over the Yankees on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. Reyes became the first player since Sept. 17, 2019, with at least one triple, a homer and a stolen base in a game (the last was Toronto's Cavan Biggio).
“With the elements in the fields and if you hit it to the gap, you can get a triple any day,” Reyes said. “It took a long time for me to get it, but here’s the time. But a stolen base? That’s a little bit harder.”
Watching a player of Reyes’ stature -- 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds -- showcase his speed can cause some laughs and jokes inside the dugout, but the team has not taken anything away from Reyes' determination to get on base and create a spark for the offense.
“I know he probably won't lead the league in triples,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But when he hits it, he runs. And he keeps his head up, and he knows where the ball is. It's kind of inspiring. It is for me. I hope it is for everybody. It kind of makes me feel better when I see him do that. He gives you a pretty damn good effort.”
The Yankees got to witness Reyes come thundering toward third base twice this series. In Thursday’s opener, Reyes recorded his first career triple, snapping a streak of 1,135 plate appearances without one -- the longest streak without a triple among active players in the Majors. His confidence on the basepaths grew, as he recorded his first career steal and logged another triple on Sunday.
No, Reyes hasn’t suddenly discovered a second gear, as his sprint speed on the triples were 26.0 and 26.1 feet per second (27.0 feet per second is league average, 30.0 is elite). But clearly, he was able to find the perfect gap on Sunday to bring a much-needed pulse to the offense.
“I want to show my teammates to continue to do the same thing they have been doing every day: hustle,” Reyes said. “Don’t run slow. You never know what’s gonna happen.”
The more daunting -- and unexpected -- feat was Reyes’ stolen base. First-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. is responsible for keeping track of how long it takes the pitcher to throw the ball to his catcher. When he realized it was consistently between 1.6 and 1.7 seconds, he gave Reyes the green light.
“I was like, ‘This is my opportunity to get it. Here it is,’” Reyes said, with a big grin. “My reaction [to there not being a throw] was I was surprised. Like, wow. What does [Alomar] have [at] first base right there? Like even in Spring Training, I had two stolen bases that he told me, ‘Go right now,’ and the catchers never threw. I’m like, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable.”
Reyes put together his 17th career game with at least three hits, which began Sunday with a single in the second. After the Indians fell behind, 3-0, in the top of the fourth, the offense responded with three consecutive singles and a run in the bottom half of the frame to set up Reyes to mash the go-ahead, three-run blast. It marked the first time the Indians have recorded four consecutive hits in an inning since Sept. 1, 2020, against the Royals.
It’s been obvious how much Cleveland has relied on Ramírez over the past few years, especially in 2020. But the team knows that the AL MVP candidate can’t do all the heavy lifting on his own. Ramírez’s performance in September of last year helped pull Cleveland out of an eight-game losing streak and led the Indians to eight victories in their next nine games. Now, Reyes can only hope this upcoming stretch will follow suit.
“Franmil is a big, lovable guy, and he's very happy all the time,” Indians starter Triston McKenzie said. “So watching him succeed and enjoy it is definitely good for the dugout and the team.”