CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The Indians needed something, anything, to jumpstart what was a horrendous start to the second half of the season.
Like so many other times this season, the AL Central leaders responded to a poor performance with a double-digit night offensively, their 11th such game of the season.
The key following a rout of the Toronto Blue Jays will be following it up with another solid effort on Saturday.
In their 10 previous double-digit affairs, the Indians have responded with one-or-fewer runs four times the following night. They have scored four or more in the remaining six follow-up games, resulting in a record of 5-5, not exactly foretelling.
On Friday night, it was the man signed to do damage in the middle of the lineup, Edwin Encarnacion, who did so against his former team. The cleanup hitter turned in a 3-for-4 night in which he tagged his 20th home run on the year and knocked in a total of four runs.
“I mean I always try to give my best no matter who we’re playing against, but thank God I was able to have a good game against my ex-team,” he said with a hint of sarcasm.
Two of those runs came on a go-ahead double in the team’s four-run 4th inning, giving credence to Manager Terry Francona’s season long philosophy that when Encarnacion contributes, the entirety of the offense picks up.
“He picked us up tonight,” Francona said of his slugger. “Once he did, sometimes the hitting can get contagious and tonight was one of those nights. It was good. We’re playing from a deficit and so many times that’s been really difficult for us. Tonight, not only did we come back, but then we spread it out. That’s a good way to play.”
On the night, six Indians drove in runs, and in the team’s eight-run 7th inning, every player in the lineup scored, outside of Francisco Lindor. All reached base in the frame.
But how much fact is there in the idea that as Edwin goes, the Indians go?
Quite a bit, actually.
It is not rocket science to prophesize that if your cleanup hitter drives in runs, the team will be more successful. It tells you that your big bat is producing, but also the hitters around him that are also greatly counted upon.
But the numbers when the Indians get help from their big gun are pretty noteworthy.
When Encarnacion drives in three or more runs, the Indians are undefeated at 4-0. When he knocks in two or more, the Indians are 10-4, a .714 winning percentage. Just one run? Even better at 23-8 (.750)
In the 32 games he has driven in runs, the Indians average 6.8 runs per contest. In the 62 he did not drive a runner home, that number falls to 3.7.
Naturally, the percentages seem nice, but the fact that the team’s best run-producer has driven in runs in just 32-of-94 games has to be troubling, no? For comparison, Encarnacion drove in a run in 32 of the Blue Jays’ first 94 in 2015. The number was 45 in 2016.
In those two years, the now 34-year old’s numbers were similar, with more RBI and HR in 2016, but more team wins in 2015. Not exactly a positive correlation.
Though again, the 2015 Blue Jays were 12-1 when Encarnacion drove in three or more, 22-3 when he knocked in two or more, and 42-20 when he knocked in one or more.
No amount of RBIs from the three-time All-Star will assure the Indians a victory, but unsurprisingly, when they happen, wins generally follow.
The only way to guarantee that runs happen is to forget the day and move on to the next, according to Encarnacion.
“We need to come back and get it tomorrow again,” he said. “Tonight is over, thinking about tomorrow and be ready for tomorrow.”