CLEVELAND -- Mike Napoli is known for his power, not his speed. Running the bases takes more than fleetness of foot, though. Ask the Indians' first baseman, and he will say that it takes instincts, planning ahead and a mentality that boils down to a simple mantra."If a guy is
CLEVELAND -- Mike Napoli is known for his power, not his speed. Running the bases takes more than fleetness of foot, though. Ask the Indians' first baseman, and he will say that it takes instincts, planning ahead and a mentality that boils down to a simple mantra.
"If a guy is going to give you a base," Napoli said after Saturday's 11-4 win over the Orioles, "go and take it."
That mindset has been in working order all season long for the Tribe, which has developed into arguably the best baserunning team in the American League. It was also on full display on Saturday, when Cleveland put the pressure on former Tribe righty Ubaldo Jimenez, who was on the hook for four of the five stolen bases that the Tribe piled up in its latest win.
Before this one turned into a blowout, a key turn came for Cleveland on the basepaths in the opening inning. With one out and runners on first (Jose Ramirez) and second (Napoli), the Indians took advantage of Jimenez. After noticing that the pitcher was paying little mind to the baserunners, Napoli broke for third on an 0-1 pitch to Juan Uribe.
"He was not really paying too much attention," Napoli said. "He looked home and would go. So, as soon as he turned his head, I just went."
Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters did what he could to fire a throw to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, but Napoli slid in safely, as Ramirez followed suit at second base. That set things up for Yan Gomes to drive a pitch from Jimenez through the hole on the right side for a two-run, two-out single that pushed the Indians ahead, 4-0. One inning later, Francisco Lindor swiped second base and scored on a subsequent single by Napoli.
In the seventh, Carlos Santana stole second, forcing a throwing error by Wieters. On that play, Michael Martinez trotted home from third to give the Indians another run. Lonnie Chisenhall also collected a stolen base in the win, which moved Cleveland into first place in the AL Central.
"It's important," Napoli said. "You're putting pressure on the defense. It's 90 feet. You're talking about moving up 90 feet. You never know what can happen. You can get a base hit, passed ball. It's got to be part of our game, and I think we've been doing a good job of it."
Beyond the steals, the Indians also took six extra bases throughout their win, continuing a season-long trend. Cleveland entered Saturday ranked second in the American League with 54 bases taken (on fly balls, balks, wild pitches, passed balls or defensive indifference). The Tribe also ranked first in the AL with a 52-percent extra-bases-taken rate.
With their performance on Saturday, the Indians upped their baserunning rating (BsR) to 8.8, which leads the American League and is the second-best mark in the Majors, per Fangraphs.com. Cleveland's 80.4-percent stolen-base rate is second in the AL, along with total stolen bases (37).
Asked about the success on the bases, Indians manager Terry Francona smiled.
"It's one of the things I'm most proud of with our guys," Francona said. "It's something we talked about the first day of Spring Training. ... The way you run the bases, it obviously helps in a number of ways during the game. But I think guys that run the bases correctly, regardless of whether they got hits or not, are the same guys that back up bases.
"It goes a long way towards how you're going to play the game. I think our guys have done a really good job in that area."
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 listen to his podcast.