Francisco Lindor, the heart of the lineup clicking and some more fun in the Indians' dugout: Walk-Off Thoughts

Ryan Lewis
rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com
Cleveland Indians' Francisco Lindor, right, is greeted at home plate by teammate Carlos Santana after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, in Detroit.

Here are seven Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians' 8-5 win over the Tigers on Sunday, their 20th consecutive win over Detroit dating back to last season.

1. The Indians have had a few pieces to their everyday lineup come around over the last week, some badly-needed contributions popping up from key spots in the order. Franmil Reyes has been one of the hottest hitters in the game. Cesar Hernandez has continued to strong start to the season out of the leadoff spot. Carlos Santana has, at least, continued to draw walks at record rates. Jose Ramirez has had a few key hits, along with his usual production on the bases. But one factor has largely been missing from the heart of the lineup: that being the No. 3 spot occupied by Francisco Lindor.

2. Lindor entered Sunday's game in Detroit hitting .212 with a .617 OPS with three home runs, three doubles and 10 RBI in 21 games. He had said he wasn't too worried about that slow start, and manager Terry Francona in general has continued to preach the Indians' mantra of patience, as without it, you miss out on the potential rebound.

"It’s definitely a stretch where he’s struggling. He’s not in sync," Francona said before Sunday's game on a Zoom call. "You can say it a lot of different ways, whether his lower half and his upper half aren’t quite [in sync]. Sometimes hitters, you get rushed and you get in habits because the ball gets up on you quick. I fall back on that statement, he’s such a good player, he’ll get as hot as he got cold, and it’ll be fun to watch."

3. The Indians had fun watching him on Sunday. Lindor went 3-for-5 with a home run, two doubles (one down each line) and three RBI, helping to power the Indians to an 8-5 win. Waiting on a hitter with that kind of an MVP-candidate track record can be difficult in a shortened, 60-game season. The Indians have been waiting for that one swing, or one hit, to unlock Lindor's normal level of production.

"Sometimes you just need a hit. It’s different for different people," Francona said after Sunday's game. "Sometimes it’s a swing and something will click. Or sometimes you just need to get rewarded for something. But, boy, it’s nice to see him do that where he sits in the middle of the order. Franmil’s been a force. Even when Santana’s not been hitting, he’s been on base almost half the time. Cesar Hernandez playing the game right, it’s a good way to play. We needed to do some things today or we lose that game."

4. Reyes' torrid week continued on Sunday with two more home runs, including one mammoth shot that traveled an estimated 453 feet with an exit velocity of 114.1. As first pointed out by Sarah Langs of MLB.com, that was the hardest-hit home run by any Indians hitter during the Statcast era (since 2015). It was also a perfect, continued display of what Reyes has been trying to do at the plate: drive the ball toward right-center. Reyes' first home run went to the opposite field, with the second, more prodigious of the two shots being hit to dead center at Comerica Park. It was Reyes' second home run of the series that traveled at least 450 feet. And even he couldn't help but be impressed.

"It was a fastball right in the middle," Reyes said, smiling. "Wow. That was great. I got really impressed. I hit that ball really far. I got it right on the barrel."

5. As the offense goes, so too does the energy in the dugout. "What I could see from the team, especially today, is the support that we are giving each other," Reyes said. "How the guys are fired up in the dugout, it motivates each guy when they go to the plate to do something to the plate to continue that hype in the dugout."

6. Arguably the Indians' biggest win on Sunday wasn't after the game was over — it was in the top of the ninth. Reyes was hit on the left hand by a 94.5 mph fastball from Joe Jimenez. It was a scare for the Indians to potentially lose Reyes just as he started to catch fire, though the team announced after the game that X-Rays had come back negative, and it's just a bruise. Reyes will also have Monday's off day to rest.

"It was painful at the beginning, but it’s going away," Reyes said on a Zoom call while squeezing his hand into a fist. "Thank God."

7. There was at time, not too long ago, when the Tigers tormented the Indians like a big brother picking on his younger sibling. Those days were gone last year, and they don't appear to be coming back any time soon. The Indians' sweep of the Tigers over the weekend extended their winning streak over Detroit to 20 games dating back to last year. It's the longest winning streak by the Indians over a single opponent in franchise history and the second-longest such streak in Major League Baseball since 1969, behind only the Orioles over the Royals in 1969.

"We just go out there every single day and play the game as hard as we can," Lindor said. "We just try to come up with the W. At the end of the day, it don’t matter who’s on the other side, we still have to go out there and perform as hard as we can. For some reason, it seems like against the Tigers, we bring it up a little bit more."

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.