By Manny Randhawa
Felix Pie never doubted that things would turn around for him at the plate.
“That happens in baseball,” the Indians outfielder said of his slow start to the season. “Every ballplayer has some [slumps]. It [all] has to do with how you handle it.”
Pie seems to have handled it just fine. Over his last 14 games, he’s hitting a scorching .404 with three doubles, two triples, three homers (including a grand slam) and 16 RBI in 52 at-bats. And that’s not to mention an on-base percentage of .492 with 11 runs scored.
But Pie isn’t the only Indians player to awaken from an early season slumber at the plate. As a team, the Indians have exploded on offense, scoring 96 runs in 19 games during May as part of an emergence of Tribe hitting that was anticipated from the beginning of the season.
In the first month of the 2013 campaign, the Indians hit just .246 as a team with only 11 home runs. Just a few weeks into May, they’re hitting .265 as a unit and have already hit more homers (19) than in all of April.
“We’re a month deep,” said Indians catcher Tony Sanchez. “Most of us have 100 AB’s, and everyone’s starting to lock it in.”
“Locking it in” is a great way to describe what Sanchez, usually known for his stellar defense, has been doing with the bat lately, hitting .387 (12-for-31) with seven doubles, a homer and seven RBI over his last 10 games.
The backstop recently finished just a triple short of a cycle in a 10-4 victory over the Buffalo Bisons on May 14, going 3-for-4 with a mammoth home run to right-center that nearly ended up on West Street.
“I knew it was gone,” Sanchez said of his two-run shot in the first inning. “It’s a tribute to what I’ve been working on.”
The hot hitting catcher was referring to the mechanics of his approach at the plate toward the very beginning of the season.
“I made an adjustment in the beginning of the season, about a week in,” he explained. “I had a slow start. Unfortunately I’m a notoriously slow starter, but it took me about 15 AB’s to realize, ‘okay, let me make this switch,’ … and ever since then I’ve been hitting the ball fairly well.”
The man who leads the Indians in home runs (8) and is tied for first RBI (21) – six-year MLB veteran Brett Carroll – said that the key for him has been to just relax and remember why he’s playing the game.
“Honestly, I think over the last couple of weeks I was really trying to press too much, do too much,” the Tribe’s slugging outfielder recalled. “For me it was just getting back to why I’m playing the game and just trying to be in the moment and really stay relaxed and realize that I can sometimes overanalyze.”
Well, to put it more simply, the outfielder has hit five homers and driven in nine runs in the month of May alone, including two tape-measure blasts in Indianapolis’ 14-7 drubbing of the Bisons on May 15.
“Anytime the guys are stringing hits together it makes it fun as an offensive player. You want to keep it going, keep the line moving,” Carroll said of the Indians’ recent power surge. “I think guys are putting good at-bats together and we’re scoring runs when we need to.”
Carroll also underscored an important truth about the game of baseball in talking about his two-homer day Wednesday, particularly when it comes to hitting: it’s about being comfortable, which Indians hitters as a group seem to be right now.
“I felt really calm in [the batter’s box],” he said.
“I felt free and at peace, and that really helps as a hitter.”