CLEVELAND -- The swing that the Indians have been dreaming about arrived Thursday night. That it showed up against a fastball from Red Sox ace Chris Sale was remarkable, though Yandy Diaz has dropped jaws enough as a prospect to know that it was not an impossibility.In a 13-6 romp
CLEVELAND -- The swing that the Indians have been dreaming about arrived Thursday night. That it showed up against a fastball from Red Sox ace Chris Sale was remarkable, though Yandy Diaz has dropped jaws enough as a prospect to know that it was not an impossibility.
In a 13-6 romp over Boston, the version of Diaz that the Indians have always felt was inside that muscular frame finally emerged. Serving as the designated hitter with Carlos Santana dealing with back tightness, Diaz stepped up and played pepper with Progressive Field's right-field wall in the greatest game of his career to date.
"Boy, it's amazing what confidence will do," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Things started to slow down for him. Nice to see for him."
Diaz was hardly alone in dismantling Boston's pitching, but his performance stood out. He ended the game with four hits, four runs scored, two RBIs, two doubles, one triple and a walk. In the long, storied history of the Indians, Hall of Famer Tris Speaker is the only other player to have a four-hit, four-run game with two doubles and a triple. Speaker did that back in 1926.
What was promising about Diaz's breakout showing was that all three of his extra-base hits ricocheted off the wall in right. That is not by accident. Hitting balls the opposite way is one of Diaz's skills, but one that got him in trouble more often that not in his first taste of the Majors in April and May. In the first two months, Diaz's hard-hit shots were typically line drives that fell too quickly, or divot-making choppers.
"He did the exact same thing he did in the first month. He did it today," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "He just put the ball a little bit higher. In the first month, he was doing the exact same thing, hitting it the other way or pulling the ball, but on the ground or a line drive right at guys. Today, he was hitting it off the wall. And it's tough to catch it when it's going 110 [mph] off the wall."
To Lindor's point, Diaz had an average launch angle of negative 3.5 degrees over the season's first two months. That was the lowest among all Major League hitters with at least 40 balls in play. In that same sample of batters, though, Diaz ranked 17th in baseball (and first on the Indians) with an average exit velocity of 92 mph, per Statcast™.
When Diaz was shipped back to Triple-A Columbus in May, he set out to work on that issue.
"I tried to develop a better routine, a new routine, and to hit the ball to the opposite field," Diaz said through team translator, Anna Bolton. "The work I have been doing in Columbus has been to try to have [fewer] ground balls and it has been nice to see results come from that."
Diaz hit .458 in 20 Cactus League games to win a spot on the Opening Day roster. In 85 games at Triple-A Columbus, he has posted a .350/.454/.460 slash line with 23 extra-base hits and more walks (60) than strikeouts (56). Even with all that success, his Major League production consists of a .230 average in 21 games for Cleveland.
The swing the Indians have been waiting for finally showed up.
"I feel really happy," Diaz said. "The last time I was here I didn't have the opportunity to connect, to have so many hits. Thank goodness I had success today."
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 Facebook.