CLEVELAND -- Rajai Davis was not about to reveal any secrets of his trade. The veteran is savvy when it comes to stealing bases, and he and the Indians undoubtedly picked up on something that could be exploited within Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs' delivery on Friday night.In the first inning
CLEVELAND -- Rajai Davis was not about to reveal any secrets of his trade. The veteran is savvy when it comes to stealing bases, and he and the Indians undoubtedly picked up on something that could be exploited within Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs' delivery on Friday night.
In the first inning of Cleveland's 13-3 rout of Los Angeles, Davis worked an 11-pitch walk and then promptly stole second base. After dusting himself off, the Indians outfielder sprinted once again, sliding safely into third for another theft. Three pitches later, Davis jogged home when Jason Kipnis singled to left field. Those were the first two in a series of eight stolen bases for Cleveland.
Asked what the Tribe saw in Skaggs' approach, Davis winked.
"We just kind of have that aggressive nature," Davis replied. "And we've just got to go from there. We kind of just take what they give us."
The Indians were not about to tip their hand, but something was discovered -- whether before Friday via a scouting report or once on the basepaths -- that led to a record-tying night for the club. Davis ended the evening with three steals and Jose Ramirez did the same. Kipnis and Francisco Lindor also added one theft apiece.
The eight steals tied the most in a single game in Cleveland history, matching a mark set by Braggo Roth (four), Joe Harris (two), Tris Speaker (one) and Bill Wambsganss (one) on Aug. 27, 1917, against the Washington Senators. In that game nearly a century ago, the Senators had seen enough, and they handed the ball to Hall of Famer Walter Johnson for the final five innings. He had spun a complete game just two days earlier.
After Skaggs allowed seven steals in his five frames, the Angels gave the ball to Deolis Guerra. The reliever was on the hill for Lindor's steal.
"This loss is on me today," Skaggs said, "We put runs up early and I couldn't capitalize."
The Indians became the first team to have eight steals in a game since the Rangers accomplished the feat on April 20, 2010, against the Red Sox. Dating back to 1913, Davis and Ramirez became the 23rd set of teammates -- the first for the Indians -- to each have at least three steals in the same game. That had not happened since Aug. 10, 2014, when Norichika Aoki and Jarrod Dyson turned the trick for the Royals.
Friday's sprints gave first-place Cleveland an American League-leading 92 steals, which includes a league-high 31 from Davis. It has not only been stolen bases that have helped ignite the Tribe's lineup this season, though. According to Fangraphs, the Indians lead the AL with a 16.2 BsR, which is an all-encompassing baserunning metric.
"Our baserunning tonight set the tone," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We had hits to get on, and it was early in the innings, but our baserunning, they did a good job. We stole bases. We didn't just run with abandon. We were intelligent. I thought it set the tone for the whole game."
Beyond his steals in the first inning, Davis stole second in the fifth and scored on a double by Kipnis.
"He's unreal," said Kipnis, who stole second after his single in the first inning. "That's the ability he has and the weapon he is."
Ramirez singled in the fourth inning to run his hitting streak to 16 games, and then the third baseman followed in Davis' footsteps, stealing second and third. He later scored on a base hit by Abraham Almonte. Speaking via a team translator, Ramirez said Davis' effort "motivates you, and you have to look for your opportunities."
Ramirez was also asked for any insight into what the team saw in the combination of Skaggs and catcher Geovany Soto that could be used to the Tribe's advantage.
"He just wasn't pitching very quickly," Ramirez said. "And he had a movement that was easy to read for us to know when to go. So we just took advantage of those opportunities."
Davis was not willing to add any details to that assessment.
"It was a little bit of just instincts with a bit of preparation," Davis said. "It's something you look for, and then just kind of go off that. You just trust your instincts, and you just go."
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.