CHICAGO -- Rajai Davis saw the pitch leave Danny Salazar's hand. The Indians center fielder then saw White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton swing. From there, all Davis saw was the falling snow against the gray sky over U.S. Cellular Field.One of the reasons Cleveland acquired Davis over the offseason was
CHICAGO -- Rajai Davis saw the pitch leave Danny Salazar's hand. The Indians center fielder then saw White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton swing. From there, all Davis saw was the falling snow against the gray sky over U.S. Cellular Field.
One of the reasons Cleveland acquired Davis over the offseason was his speed. In a 7-1 victory over Chicago on Friday afternoon, his legs helped prolong an early Cleveland rally, and also bailed him out when the baseball off Eaton's bat went missing above the top of the stadium in the fifth inning.
"I didn't see the ball do anything," Davis said. "And then, once I looked in and saw everybody looking at me, I knew that ball was coming my way."
So, Davis looked up again, searching for any sign of the missing sphere.
Austin Jackson, who connected for a two-out single before Eaton's delivered his invisible line drive, was sprinting around the bases. The baseball -- soaring through the snow flurries -- finally crossed in front of a patch of blue within the overcast sky. After that initial moment of panic, Davis turned and hustled back as hard as he could, making up the ground he lost in the confusion.
As the ball dove toward the warning track in center, Davis extended his arm, snared it with his glove and tumbled to the dirt. The center fielder quickly rose to his knees, popped the ball into the air and plucked it with his bare right hand. He held it high, ran in with a grin and let out a shout. Salazar bent over in laughter in the infield.
"I saw him doing signs like, 'Where is the ball?'" Salazar said with a smile. "I'm glad that he could make that catch."
On a normal summer night, such theatrics would not have been necessary, but this showed how Davis' speed can impact the game. He also flashes that attribute in the batter's box against the White Sox, delivering a triple that extended an early offensive outburst for the Indians in the second inning.
With Cleveland holding a 3-0 lead, Davis ripped a pitch from White Sox lefty John Danks to deep center, sending it beyond the reach of Jackson. The three-base hit scored Jose Ramirez, but Davis was not done. When Jason Kipnis followed with a flyout to mid-center, Davis tagged up and tested Jackson's arm. It was no contest, as the Tribe's veteran outfielder crossed home plate well ahead of the throw.
That five-run cushion helped Salazar -- struggling to command any of his pitches in the wintry conditions -- work with a little more confidence and margin for error.
"He does a good job of keeping his legs going," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He doesn't take [anything] for granted and he's ready from the first pitch."
Friday's win provided an example of why Cleveland invested in a one-year, $5.25 million contract to add Davis over the winter. The Indians liked his veteran presence, his ability to play multiple outfield positions and his potential for using his speed to make an impact both offensively and defensively.
In this case, it helped Davis make a circus catch as snow fell.
"He said when everybody on the whole field is looking at him, that's a bad feeling," Francona said with a chuckle. "I said, 'Yeah, it didn't look good from our [standpoint], either.'"
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.