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Indians dominating with the bases loaded

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It’s not predictive and it’s not all that important, but it sure is fun to watch.

Cleveland Indians v Seattle Mariners Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

En route to a blowout win over the Baltimore Orioles last night, Melky Cabrera did something that the Cleveland Indians have done a lot this season — he hit a grand slam, one of nine for the Tribe this season with the bases loaded.

It wasn’t always this way, though. The 2016 Indians, for example, finished with a league-worst .228/.272/.277 slash and zero home runs with the bases juiced, despite the considerable heights the team eventually ascending to.

The only other team to fail to homer that year was the Atlanta Braves when they were comprised of Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and an army of wet noodles. Meanwhile, the Indians had playoff aspirations and a dominant pitching staff that they let down night after night. In 125 plate appearances, the bases-loaded Indians struck out 19 times, hit into seven double plays, and knocked in just 68 runs home. That’s gross.

Now fast forward two years and things have changed dramatically.

The 2018 Indians feel like they are guaranteed to score every time they are up with the bases loaded with a league-best .344/.370/.729, two doubles, and nine home runs. For context, no team hit more than eight home runs last season.

They trail in RBI behind the Red Sox’s 119 and Reds’ (???) 126. But those two teams have done in it 145 and 172 plate appearances, respectively. The Indians’ 99 runs batted in have come off just 108 attempts.

There have been some ridiculous seasons with the bases loaded (including the 2006 Indians hitting 14 home runs and the 1999 team hitting a dozen), so it’s unlikely the Tribe will make any long-lasting history with their efforts this year, although their .729 slugging percentage is within range of the 1929 Chicago Cubs’ .780. If they didn’t go over a month without a grand slam between Yan Gomes’ in July and Cabrera’s last night, they might have had a shot at the home run record. It’s unlikely now, though.

Whether or not they make an impact in the history, they are absolutely bonkers with the bases loaded this season. It’s not really predictive of anything, and it’s not a skill that is guaranteed to stick around in October, but it’s fun as hell to watch. So let’s do that.

Yonder Alonso - March 31, 2018

Baseball Savant

It took just two games for the Indians to belt their first grand slam of the season, which should have been a sign of things to come. In the first inning against the Seattle Mariners, the newest member of the Indians, Yonder Alonso, gave himself a welcome party with a four-run shot off Mariners ace James Paxton.

Michael Brantley - May 1, 2018

Baseball Savant

It took a full month for the next grand slam to come, and it was Brantley’s first of the season. At the time we were all still unsure if he was really back or not. Just a couple weeks into the season, he was hitting well but still a major unknown in the outfield. Then he cranked this shot 392 feet to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. The Indians still lost in extra innings.

Michael Brantley - May 11, 2018

The next salami was another Michael Brantley special, and another game in which he slammed and the Indians still lost. Where Brantley’s grand slam against the Rangers brought the Indians back into the game before they blew it later, this one gave the Indians a 9-4 lead that should have been insurmountable against the lowly Kansas City Royals. It wasn’t.

Brandon Guyer - May 15, 2018

Baseball Savant

Another first-inning shot for the Indians, this time against the Detroit Tigers. This was the first grand slam of Guyer’s career and it gave the Tribe a 4-0 lead over their division rival.

...they lost 8-9.

Yonder Alonso - June 22, 2018

Baseball Savant

Alonso’s second grand slam of the season was the Indians’ second against the Tigers. This time they actually used it to win, 10-0. This slam also gave us an adorable video of Alonso’s son watching him hit the dinger.

Edwin Encarnacion - June 24, 2018

Baseball Savant

Another one against the Tigers just a couple days later (this never gets old). Encarnacion’s first grand slam of the season gave them a 12-2 lead they never gave back.

Francisco Lindor - July 2, 2018

Baseball Savant

Francisco Lindor is the king of dramatic grand slams. He started last year by crushing the souls of the Texas Rangers, then slammed against the Yankees in the ALDS. This time around he crushed one on Fourth of July weekend to give the Tribe a 6-2 lead over the Royals.

Yan Gomes - July 3, 2018

Baseball Savant

Just a day later, Yan Gomes did the same thing to the same team in the same star spangled uniform. The Indians won both games.

Melky Cabrera - August 19, 2018

Baseball Savant

And finally, after the longest salami drought of the season, we come to Melky’s grand slam last night against the Baltimore Orioles. It might be an at-bat that gets him on the playoff roster over Yandy Diaz, so that’s a shame. But the homer itself was fun as hell to watch, and the longest grand slam of the season.