CLEVELAND — It was a night for seven and a slide at Progressive Field on Tuesday.
The Indians had your average homer fest in a 14-2 win over the Phillies. Cleveland hit seven home runs, a home record for the team and one off the team record for a game.
“We found some holes,” said Mark Reynolds. “I guess there’s a lot of holes over the fence.”
But when it was over the slide might have been discussed as much.
Because with the Indians up by 12 in the bottom of the eighth inning, 42-year-old Jason Giambi rumbled down the line and dove headfirst into first to beat out a sharp grounder that had been knocked down by Ryan Howard.
The dugout erupted with the fans when he hit the ground.
“I felt like Mr. Potato Head,” Giambi said. “All of my parts went everywhere.”
It mattered not a bit to manager Terry Francona. Because Giambi’s slide epitomized everything Francona has talked about when he refers to playing the game the right way.
“You know what?” Francona said. “I would say that if you’re a young player and after you watch that and you don’t run a ball out, then you should be humiliated. Anybody in baseball.”
Giambi was brought to Cleveland to be a spot left-handed DH and a full-time leader. There’s hardly a better way to lead than to hustle and dive with a 12-run lead. It would be easy for a veteran like him to run half-hearted to an out. Giambi didn’t.
“I don’t care how old you are,” Giambi said. “When you smell a hit, you want a hit.”
After sliding, he knelt at first, his helmet across his face.
“I told Saurby (Mike Sarbaugh), our first- base coach, ‘Do you see my groin, my knee, my elbow anywhere?’” Giambi said.
The dugout enjoyed it too, just like it enjoyed the entire night.
This was the third game in a row that the bats were prolific. Cleveland got seven home runs from six players. Five were two-run jobs, two were solo. Ryan Raburn had two for the second game in a row — the first Indian to do that since Travis Hafner in 2004. Reynolds continued his torrid start with his eighth in the first, after Carlos Santana, the league’s leading hitter, scored the first two runs with his own home run.
“I’ve been on some teams that have hit some homers,” Reynolds said. “But tonight was fun. Especially to do it against like Roy.”
That would be Roy Halladay, who has been one of the league’s better pitchers.
“That was a huge win for us,” Giambi said.
One of 162 in the regular season usually isn’t huge, but this one felt a tad larger. After being shut out in the first game of a day-night doubleheader in Kansas City on Monday, the Indians have scored 10, nine and 14 runs, which would be 33 in 26 innings.
They won’t keep scoring 10 per game (Cliff Lee pitches for the Phillies on Wednesday) but the runs and the hits (45 the last three games) and the timing (12 runs Tuesday came with two out indicate something might be gelling. At last.
“I think guys are finally starting to relax,” Giambi said. “We’ve talked about this so much early in the season. We were kind of scuffling, trying to get that big two-out hit. We were trying to move guys over and not getting it done, or not getting a guy in from third. It was costing us early in the year. We could have tied a few games or even won a few games.
“Now if you noticed I think the last few games guys are starting to get those two-out hits and guys are finally relaxed. Thinking, ‘Ok, we’re doing it now, we’re acting like a ballclub we know we can be.’”
Perhaps without realizing it the Indians got caught up in the offseason excitement, and set out to prove it was justified. This clearly is armchair analysis, but the last three games have brought out some positives. Which may allow the team to take the weight off their chest.
“Hopefully,” Giambi, “we’re getting a little momentum, we’ll get on a little role. Hopefully we’re coming together as a ballclub.”