CLEVELAND -- Yan Gomes walked out of the batter's box, watching as the ball he just hit sailed high into the Cleveland night. The Indians' catcher slowly shifted into a trot, dropping his bat as the baseball disappeared into the bushes beyond the center-field wall.
By the time Gomes reached first base in the eighth inning of Saturday's 8-3 triumph over the Angels, his right fist was high in the air and he was shouting along with the Progressive Field crowd. For the first time in his career, Gomes had launched a grand slam. For the first time this season, the Indians' home ballpark had reached October-esque decibel levels.
"I was on top of the bench screaming, going crazy," Indians rookie Francisco Lindor said. "The crowd went crazy. The dugout went crazy. It was a fun moment. Moments like this are what helps us build a confidence, not only a confidence, but a team chemistry. You see everybody pulling in one direction."
In a span of five batters, Cleveland pulled off an incredible win.
Gomes' granny to the greenery capped off a furious eighth-inning push against Angels sidearmer (and former Indians reliever) Joe Smith. When the catcher connected with the first-pitch sinker, he felt confident that the ball was going to exit the playing field. Then, Gomes saw Angels center fielder Mike Trout gliding back toward the warning track and had the briefest taste of doubt.
"I sure hoped I did [hit a homer]," Gomes said with a laugh, "because I was really excited about it. I hit it pretty good, but then when you see Trout turning and burning you're like, 'OK, maybe I should start running a little bit.' But, yeah, I knew I got it."
With the game caught in a 3-3 deadlock, Smith took over for Los Angeles starter Garrett Richards in the eighth and immediately engaged in an eight-pitch battle with Lindor, who fouled off five pitches before leading off with a single.
That set the table for the Tribe's swift rally.
"That was a really good at-bat," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Frankie's only faced [Smith] I think once, but you could tell he spread out and he stayed real short and fouled off some tough pitches. That was really big."
Eight pitches later, it was over for Smith and the Angels.
Brantley followed Lindor with a first-pitch single to right field, and Carlos Santana came through next with a 1-0 double to right, scoring Lindor to push Cleveland ahead, 4-3. With runners on second and third and no outs, Smith opted to intentionally walk Lonnie Chisenhall to load the bases. That situation has been troublesome this year for the Tribe, which entered the night with an American League-low .167 average with the bags full.
Also working against the Indians was the fact that Smith entered his outing with a .221/.243/.269 opponents' slash line against right-handed batters and had not surrendered a homer to a righty since Aug. 10, 2014 (a span of 142 plate appearances). Gomes was 0-for-2 on the day with a pair of strikeouts and has a .221 batting average on the season.
"I was trying to throw sinker in," Smith said.
Gomes crushed the mistake pitch.
"I missed middle-middle," Smith said. "That's what happens, you know? If you don't throw the ball where you want to, the guy with the bat is going to do some damage."
Gomes, who had a sacrifice fly in the second inning, ended with a career-high five RBIs and gave Cleveland fans another glimpse of the Silver Slugger Award-winning catcher from last year. Hindered by a knee injury early on this year, Gomes has shown his power potential in spurts, but the consistency has been lacking.
Under the circumstances, nights like Saturday can go a long way for a player.
"It definitely helps," Gomes said. "Sure, I've been having some pretty big ups and downs at the plate. If you're going to do something, you might as well focus on defense. I've been trying to let that happen. Like Tito has [ingrained] in my head, anything I do at the plate is extra. Hopefully, the confidence keeps going and I just ride the wave now."