CLEVELAND — For most of April, Franmil Reyes looked anything but comfortable at the plate, leading to a late April move by Terry Francona to drop Reyes to sixth in the lineup in an attempt to help jump-start the slugger’s bat. But no matter what adjustments were made, Reyes continued to live below the Mendoza line as his bat slipped further and further into a slumber.
After a month of sleeping, Reyes might have woken his bat up on Saturday with one swing.
In the third inning of the Guardians’ doubleheader nightcap against the Blue Jays, Reyes crushed a ball 110.8 mph through a cold, northern wind onto Progressive Field’s home run porch for his first home run since April 22. Reyes’ home run was part of a productive night for Cleveland’s offense, which mashed 11 hits in an 8-2 win over the Blue Jays to secure a doubleheader split.
“I think he’s working at it,” Guardians bench coach DeMarlo Hale said. “He understands that it hasn’t been a good start for him, but it says something about him that he’s working through.”
While Reyes’ offensive outburst occurred in the second game, he managed to make an impact in the Guardians’ 8-3 loss in the opener. In the fourth inning, Reyes worked a four-pitch walk off Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman. Not only did the walk signify a small victory for a batter who has struggled to get on base (Reyes entered the game with a walk percentage of 3.3, which is in the bottom 7 percent of baseball), but it was also the first walk Gausman had issued all year.
“That just kind of shows that he’s seeing the ball a little bit better,” Hale said.
Reyes’ breakout came in a game in which the Guardians’ offense was productive from the jump. After starter Triston McKenzie allowed a run in the first inning, Owen Miller gave Cleveland the lead in the bottom of the frame with a two-run double before Andrés Giménez added an RBI single to make it 3-1. Along with going 2-for-4, Giménez had two magnificent plays in the field in the nightcap.
After a shaky start, McKenzie locked in after the second, throwing four hitless innings while his offense stacked up runs behind him.
“[After the first inning] it was really just settling down and figuring it out,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie’s offspeed pitches were especially dangerous, as he generated a 36.1 called strikes plus whiff rate with his curveball and slider.
“He was pretty good,” Hale said. “I thought he really settled down and started challenging them.”
Cleveland’s production in the nightcap was a far cry from how the day started, as the Guardians looked to be stuck in neutral in the Game 1 loss.
While the offense had its fair share of struggles in the opener, Shane Bieber had his worst start of the year. The 26-year-old surrendered eight hits and seven runs (tying his career high) in 3 1/3 innings while failing to record a strikeout for the first time in his career. His fastball velocity sat at 89.9 mph.
“It was just lack of command and lack of getting ahead, which led to lack of conviction,” Bieber said. “Pretty frustrating I didn’t give the team a chance to win from the [start]. Just need to be better.”
After setting the Blue Jays down in order in the first inning, Bieber loaded the bases with two outs in the second before surrendering back-to-back two-run hits to Raimel Tapia and George Springer to set off a rough afternoon.
“I wanted to go out there and continue that momentum, but I continued to fall behind guys and didn’t give myself a good enough [chance] to get ahead and use my strengths,” Bieber said.