"Even when Gomer wasn't getting hits, there were so many other ways that he was helping the team win," Francona said. "I told him that last week [that] catchers have so much impact on the game, and I wanted him to understand how much we appreciated him."
Gomes made a major impact Thursday in the Indians' 4-3 victory over American League West leader Houston. He reached base in all three of his plate appearances and was 2-for-2 in throwing out attempted basestealers.
The latter included gunning down Jose Altuve carrying the potential game-tying run in the ninth inning, making Gomes 6-for-12 in that category this season.
"Yan does shut down the bases, which is a huge part of the game, and he made a great throw to get Altuve," Francona said. "The same is true with Roberto [Perez]. What those guys do, preventing most teams from running on us, is so important."
Two innings earlier, Gomes drew a six-pitch walk off Chris Devenski. It was the second base on balls issued by the right-hander in 16 2/3 innings this year, and turned into the game-tying run when Francisco Lindor homered two batters later.
The 2014 American League Silver Slugger Award-winner raised his batting average to .200 -- a far cry from his career-high .294 in 2013 -- but the mark is superior to the .167 he hit in 74 games last season. Gomes also reached base three times in a game for just the second time in a calendar year. The other occurred on April 17 at Minnesota, indicating a positive trend.
"Gomer is never going to be a high-walk guy, but that was a very good at-bat against Devenski," Francona said. "He was fouling off good pitches and laying off bad ones, and that's a good sign. We've seen a couple of them lately from him."
Left fielder Michael Brantley was given the night off as the Indians opened a three-game series with Seattle. He underwent two shoulder surgeries last season, limiting him to 11 games.
Brantley is hitting .300 on the year and .304 against lefties, but Francona opted to rest him against southpaw Ariel Miranda.
"It's not that he can't hit a lefty -- he can hit against anybody -- but I'm just being cognizant of him growing into playing more," Francona said.
"Michael has done a great job and he'll continue to do it for us, and there will come a time when he plays every day. He knows we're looking out for him and he is understanding about the long haul."
In the community
Indians right-hander Corey Kluber and his wife Amanda visited patients at the Cleveland VA Medical Center earlier in the day.
Brian Dulik is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.