Bats break out to put tough weekend in rearview mirror
Cleveland smacks 13 hits vs. Rays day after being blanked twice by O's
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Indians wanted badly to turn the page on what took place in Baltimore over the weekend. In the hours before Monday's game against the Rays, Indians manager Terry Francona went as far as calling a team meeting to begin that process.
Francona might consider repeating his speech on Tuesday, too.
Cleveland's offense came alive at Tropicana Field, piling up some late runs to run away with a 7-1 victory over the Rays in the opener of this four-game series. The four runs scored by the Tribe in the ninth were more than the team scored in the entire three-game series in Baltimore, including being shut out in both games of Sunday's doubleheader.
"It's one of those series that you just forget about it, man," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said. "It happened. I don't even know if we can learn from it -- it was that bad of a series. Moving forward, we looked really good today."
Gomes -- a Silver Slugger a year ago -- woke from his own personal slumber on Monday night with a 3-for-5 outburst that included a double off the left-center-field wall in the second and a solo home run in the eighth.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis, left fielder Michael Brantley and Gomes combined to go 9-for-14 with three RBIs and five runs scored in the win.
Indians manager Terry Francona was especially pleased to see Gomes enjoy a breakout night in the batter's box. Prior to Monday, the catcher had hit .108 (4-for-37) with no homers, one walk and 16 strikeouts in his previous 11 games. On the year, Gomes was sporting a .192 average and .279 slugging percentage through 28 games before his showing against Tampa Bay.
Cleveland's offense headed into Monday with a Major League-low 66 runs in June, and getting Gomes going again is a big part of correcting that problem.
"Gomer swung the bat. He's been working at it -- obviously, because he always does," Francona said. "But to see him start to do that, if he produces like he can, that's a huge lift for us. We've had trouble connecting the lineup. He's sitting down there in that six or seven hole. That will really help."
Some of the Tribe's offensive issues persisted in the win, though.
Seven of Cleveland's 13 hits came with no runners on base and the club finished 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position. In the first five innings alone, the Tribe went 2-for-12 with RISP. One of the culprits was struggling first baseman Carlos Santana, who had a single in the first inning, but then struck out twice and grounded out.
"It's kind of confounding," Francona said of Santana's prolonged slump. "He's a better hitter than what he's shown. We all know that. I don't think I'm overstating it. We desperately need him. He's kind of that connector, because he's a switch-hitter and he can be right in the middle. And with his on-base skills, there's just so much that he can do to help when he's going more towards himself than what's been happening."
Monday's win was at least a step forward for the Indians after their rough weekend.