CLEVELAND — When the Indians inked Cesar Hernandez for 2021, he seemed like the obvious choice to take over the leadoff spot. That’s why it may have sparked some confusion when Jordan Luplow was penciled at the top of the order on Opening Day. But the outfielder is doing his best to show that he deserves to step in the batter’s box as often as possible.
José Ramírez and Franmil Reyes each enjoyed a two-homer game the last two nights out, so Luplow decided to join in on the fun in Cleveland’s 11-3 victory over the Tigers on Saturday with a three-run blast and a two-run double that came inches — literally — from being another three-run jack. His five RBIs on the night were a career best.
When a lefty is on the mound, the idea of getting Luplow up to bat as many times as possible isn’t the worst strategy, considering that, after his three-run blast off southpaw Tarik Skubal, his career OPS against lefties jumped to .983 in 240 at-bats. And since a leadoff hitter is guaranteed to bat with nobody on base just one time each game, the Indians probably want to increase the odds of him getting an extra plate appearance against a southpaw by putting him at the top of the order.
But when he came up again in the sixth against a righty, Luplow wanted to prove he can be more than a platoon hitter — a case he’s been attempting to make since he was acquired by Cleveland prior to the 2019 season. He launched a slider off the top of the left-field wall off righty Bryan Garcia and came inches away from a multi-homer night. After a replay review, Luplow’s drive was officially named a two-run double.
But that didn’t stop the home run derby from proceeding. The Indians mashed five homers against Detroit, excluding Luplow’s shot that came up a few inches short. It’s a trend that’s been present since the start of the season for Cleveland, as the club has scored 75 percent of its runs (24 of 32) off long balls. Since 1974, only three teams have relied on the homer more than the Indians in the first seven games of the season, including the 2003 Rangers, ‘20 Tigers and ‘13 Nationals.