Naquin's confidence rising with each at-bat

Rookie drives in career-best 4 runs in near-cycle vs. White Sox

Naquin's confidence rising with each at-bat

CLEVELAND -- On a night in which the Indians were enjoying a wealth of offense, rookie Tyler Naquin was not about to get greedy. The outfielder would be lying if he said a cycle was not on his mind, but altering his approach in an effort to collect a double was not the smart play.

When Naquin stepped into the batter's box in the eighth inning of Saturday's 13-2 romp over the White Sox, he opted to keep things simple. Look for something to attack in the strike zone. Do not chase pitches that stray. Fight off anything close. If the ideal pitch does not arrive, take a walk.

"Going into that at-bat," Naquin said, "I told myself, 'I'm doing what I did all night.'"

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Naquin's night was the best of his young career.

In the first inning, the lefty-swinging outfielder slashed a pitch from James Shields to left field for a run-scoring single, capping off five-run outburst for Cleveland. Naquin lined a pitch from reliever Matt Purke into the left-center field gap in the fourth, driving in two more runs with a triple that ended with him diving headfirst into third. In the sixth, Naquin pulled a 1-1 changeup from Matt Albers 428 feet for a solo home run.

With a double, Naquin would be the first Indians batter to achieve a cycle at home since 1933, when Earl Averill achieved the feat. Travis Hafner has the last cycle overall for Cleveland, having pulled it off on Aug. 14, 2003, on the road against the Twins.

Naquin runs down long fly ball

In the eighth, Chicago righty Michael Ynoa used a pair of fastballs -- one called and one fouled off -- to put Naquin in an 0-2 count. Naquin eventually worked the count full, fouling off the sixth and seventh pitches in the battle. Finally, Ynoa went away from the hard stuff, sending a curveball breaking low and outside. Naquin watched the pitch sail by and dropped his bat after earning a walk.

The Progressive Field crowd groaned, but cycle or not, it was an example of Naquin's increasing confidence at the plate.

"I think he's more relaxed," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He had a little bit of a tough week on the road trip and then bounces back and takes some good really swings and does some damage. When you have guys sitting down in the eight or nine holes, it really helps."

Francona on Salazar's great game

It is hard to stand out on a night that included 13 runs and 15 hits, including three home runs, but Naquin managed to do just that. The rookie ended the evening not only with three hits, but with a pair of walks and a career-best four RBIs. He also did his part in the field, running down a deep fly ball with a great catch in right-center to rob Jose Abreu of a would-be extra-base hit in the first.

"He's amazing," Indians starter Danny Salazar said, "the way he's been playing -- hitting and playing defense back there, too. He can cover a lot of space back there in the outfield. That's something great -- like that first catch he made in the first inning. That was great. I'm glad to have him here."

Naquin's smooth running grab

With his performance, Naquin became the first Cleveland batter to have at least one home run, two walks, three hits and four RBIs in a game since Grady Sizemore on Aug. 10, 2005. That has only been done 13 times in franchise history.

Through 41 games, Naquin has hit .320/.375/.553 with five home runs, three doubles, three triples, 14 RBIs and 17 runs scored.

Much of that damage has come since his most recent promotion from Triple-A Columbus. Naquin returned to the Majors on June 1, when Marlon Byrd was hit with a season-ending suspension by Major League Baseball. In his 14 games since, the rookie outfielder has hit .325/.426/.775 with all five of his home runs and 12 of his RBIs coming in that time period.

Naquin said his confidence continues to rise with experience.

"Absolutely," Naquin said. "I think any time you do something more than once, even twice, you're always going to feel better about it and yourself. So, just go out there, play with a little savvy and have fun. That's my big thing: play hard and have fun."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.