Franmil Reyes listens to Carlos Carrasco, blasts home run: Walk-Off Thoughts

Ryan Lewis
rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com
Cleveland Indians' Carlos Santana (41) celebrates the two-run home run hit by Franmil Reyes (32) in the eighth inning during a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020.

Here are seven Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians' 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds, which improved their record to 6-6.

1. Indians outfielder Franmil Reyes just wanted to focus on a single, but Carlos Carrasco wouldn't let him.

It had been a rough few days for Reyes, just as it had for most of the Indians' lineup. He was essentially lost at the plate, flailing at pitches without much in the way of a plan. He was guessing, and guessing wrong. And, he was about to come to the plate in a crucial situation during Tuesday night's game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Before his at-bat, Carrasco had some words of encouragement. He wouldn't let Reyes settle for anything less than a home run.

"Like Cookie, right there, right before that at-bat he said, 'Let’s go, you can do this. You can hit it out of the park,'" Reyes said on a Zoom call. "I said, 'Cookie, let me get a base hit first.' He said, 'No, you can hit it. Let’s go!' ... Right after the game, when we were in the line to high-five ourselves, Cookie said, 'What are you talking about base hits? I told you, hit it out. Yeah!'“

2. Reyes, in an abysmal slump to start the 2020 season, walked up to the plate and promptly crushed a fastball for the go-ahead, two-run home run to lift the Indians to a 4-2 win, snapping their four-game losing streak. And perhaps more importantly, it was the a blast the Indians had desperately needed during their offensive drought over the past several days.

Reyes entered Tuesday night just 6-for-35 (.171) with one double and zero home runs. He certainly wasn't alone amongst Indians hitters struggling to begin the year, but the lineup was gasping for air, in part because it was getting almost no production out of the No. 5 spot in the order. Reyes credited his teammates with not allowing him to get down even while he felt lost at the plate. It helped, for one night at least, to keep the situation from spiraling any further.

"Like the motor of the car, or of the motorcycle — my motor has been my teammates," Reyes said. "That’s the thing that’s made me keep going and motivated me to give my best every day. They’ve been there for me this whole time. My mind, it was not good. I don’t know what I was thinking every time I went to the plate, but not with a plan. But, those teammates right there are the best teammates I’ve ever played with. I am very grateful to have them with me because they never let me put my head down. So, I say that’s the best thing and that’s my key for success because I feel great. Today my energy was so great."

3. That Reyes at-bat nearly didn't happen. Sandy Alomar Jr., acting as manager with Terry Francona out due to a gastrointestinal condition, was planning on giving Reyes the day off to work on some mechanical issues. Reyes talked Alomar into letting him start and wound up with biggest hit of the Indians' season to date.

"He almost did not play today. He convinced me yesterday," Alomar said on a Zoom call. "I was trying to give him an off day. That way he can work on some things. He was very adamant about, 'No, I want to play. I want to go through this.' Like I was saying before, some of those guys want to play and get out of funks. And hey, glad he did, because he came up big."

4. Alomar said recently that he thought Reyes was guessing at the plate, that his approach was off. Indians hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, in concert with Carrasco's advice, said to focus on the fastball: that's the pitch Reyes can do the most damage against.

"I was talking with Vic and he said don’t swing at anything I can’t crush," Reyes said. "Slider is not a good pitch for me to hit very good, so I was just looking for the fastball every time."

5. Reyes certainly guessed correctly on the fastball from Reds reliever Nate Jones, drilling it 401 feet and allowing for, perhaps, the entire Indians dugout to breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, after almost a week, somebody had come through. Now the Indians have to hope that it was enough to jump-start the lineup as a whole.

"It’s been really tough days in these couple days, but we’re going to be all right," Reyes said. "Like I told you guys in the beginning of the season, we have a lot to give this year. This team is going to be so good, and I promise you that."

6. Shane Bieber continues to put his name alongside some of the game's all-time best to start the season.

Bieber began the season with 14 scoreless innings and 27 strikeouts in his first two starts, thus becoming only the second pitcher in history to record that many strikeouts in the first two starts of the year. On Tuesday night, he gave up runs for the first time in 2020 but still delivered a gem against the Reds, allowing two runs — both on solo home runs — in 7 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts, bringing his season ERA to 0.83. In doing so, Bieber became only the fourth pitcher in major-league history to have three consecutive outings that went at least six innings and included at least eight strikeouts, two or fewer runs allowed, two or fewer walks allowed and five or fewer hits allowed, joining Curt Schilling (1998), Pedro Martinez (2000) and Roger Clemens (2005). And via Elias, Bieber's 35 strikeouts in his first three starts of a season are the third most since 1893, when the mound was moved to its current distance, behind only Nolan Ryan (37) in 1973 and Gerrit Cole (36) in 2018. It's noise that Bieber has to block out.

"Yeah, definitely. I think while all that’s nice, it’s really about what we’re trying to do here as a team," Bieber said on a Zoom call. "So, we were able to kind of right the ship a little bit today and that was a fun way to do it with Franmil coming up huge late in the game. I know we were frustrated as a team early on in the game for a lot of different reasons but it was nice to see everybody kind of stay strong and pull through together at the end."

7. Bieber came out for the eighth and then handed the ball over to James Karinchak with two outs in the inning and Nick Castellanos, one of the hottest hitters in the game, coming to the plate representing the tying run. Karinchak attacked Castellanos with power curve after power curve. He thew six pitches, all curveballs, and finally froze Castellanos on one near the top of the zone. Karinchak has easily established himself as the biggest weapon in the Indians' bullpen ahead of Brad Hand in the ninth. He has a power fastball-curveball combination that he's combined with strong command in the regular season. It was Karinchak's ninth strikeout in 5 1/3 innings this season. It was also the 24-year-old's most impressive.

"His strikeout numbers are a little down," Bieber joked. "I’ve been jabbing him a little bit. So, I think we were both pretty excited."

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Indians at www.beaconjournal.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.