CLEVELAND -- A series with the struggling Toronto Blue Jays in front of the home fans at Progressive Field proved to be just what the doctor ordered for a Cleveland Indians team that lost five of their six games on a west-coast trip out of the break for the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
After scoring just 16 runs in their six games against the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants, the Indians (51-45) totaled 23 runs over their three-game sweep of the Blue Jays (44-54), which helped them maintain a 1.5-game lead over the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central Division standings.
“We kept the line moving again,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after Sunday’s 8-1 win over the Blue Jays.
“That’s a good way for us to play. We will always take home runs, but the majority of games, when you can use your entire lineup and keep going first to third, keep being aggressive on the bases, that’s where we’re going to have the majority of our success.”
Indians left fielder Michael Brantley continued his hot hitting in Sunday’s win.
Brantley got two hits in his four at-bats with two runs scored, one home run and three runs batted in, which raised his average to .303 on the season.
Despite not having a home run between late April and Sunday, Brantley has hit safely in seven of his last eight games, and has had two-hit showings in three of his last four outings. Brantley has driven in seven runs over his last seven games.
“I don’t get very shook up about when they come or things like that,” Francona said. “Kind of like Kluber, pencil him in, putting him in that three-hole and the way he plays the outfield, his at-bats, the quality of his at-bats, the home runs will come, but the gap power is probably more important than anything else.”
In addition to Brantley, the Indians got a crushing hit from fellow outfielder Brandon Guyer in the sweep-clinching victory over Toronto.
In the bottom of the first inning, Guyer came to the plate with shortstop Francisco Lindor on third base, Brantley at second and second baseman Jose Ramirez on at first. Lindor reached base on a bunt single, while Brantley got on with an RBI single to center field. Then, Ramirez loaded the bases with a one-out walk.
Even in the count, 2-2, Guyer took a pitch from Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ to the wall in center field and cleared the bases for a three-run double.
“That was a big hit for us, really big,” Francona said.
“He was such a force for us in the second half of last year. After he came back from being hurt, there hasn’t been a ton of at-bats, so that’s why we left him in to face (Joe) Smith just because we can get him going. He’s such a productive bat, especially against left-handers.”