"It was just basically how we want to play the game," Francona said. "It's not always going to be perfect, but we have to fight through frustration."
The Tribe did something about it Sunday afternoon, staging a frantic rally to complete a 6-5 comeback victory against the Angels. Ignited by Michael Bourn and powered by three late home runs, the win electrified a Progressive Field crowd that had gone numb and energized a clubhouse that had been subdued of late.
Cleveland needed any kind of win. The argument could be made, however, that the Indians really needed this kind of win. The Tribe overcame a rough day on the mound from Justin Masterson and a sloppy showing from the defense behind him, and showed the signature heart that came to define the team early this season.
The Indians were in a five-run hole after four innings and did not let it bury them mentally.
"We just didn't give up," Bourn said. "We were down five -- it'd be easy to fold. We didn't fold. We kept our heads up and kept grinding it out."
The late push woke Cleveland (63-55) from its six-game losing streak and avoided a winless week.
It was the kind of slump that stirred memories of Cleveland's 8-24 August a year ago.
Back on Monday, when the Indians began their recent slide, it was closer Chris Perez who blew a save in the ninth inning against the Tigers. It was fitting that Perez was on the mound Sunday against the Angels. The closer collected the three outs required to pick up the save, his 18th of the year, and seal a win that acted as a sigh of relief.
"That was just a much-needed win," Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. "Not only for us, but for our fans, too."
Bourn initiated the turnaround.
Facing Angels starter Jerome Williams, who surrendered just one hit to the first 18 batters he faced, Bourn sent a pitch into center field for a two-out single in the sixth inning. Swisher followed by belting an 0-1 offering arcing high to left-center, where the ball carried just over the 19-foot wall for a two-run home run.
Williams then issued a walk to second baseman Jason Kipnis, setting the stage for shortstop Mike Aviles, who was not even supposed to play Sunday. That changed in the third inning, when starting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was ejected from the ballgame by home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza for arguing balls and strikes.
"I just [think] maybe that was a younger umpire maybe trying to show his authority a little bit," Francona said. "I thought he got a little aggressive there. I don't think he needed to throw him out."
Call it divine intervention from the baseball gods.
In the sixth inning, Aviles also took an 0-1 pitch from Williams and ripped it on a hard line over the left-field fence. The ball sailed to the Home Run Porch for a two-run blast that trimmed Los Angeles' lead to a run.
"Baseball is a game where you just never know what's going to happen," Williams said. "That sixth inning just came out of nowhere."
L.A.'s slim advantage disappeared in the seventh, when Carlos Santana kept the line moving with a leadoff home run into the right-field seats against Angels reliever J.C. Gutierrez. Santana's blast pulled the game into a 5-5 deadlock and took Masterson off the hook for what would have been a hard loss to swallow.
In need of a stopper, the big sinkerballer exited after 4 1/3 innings, which marked his shortest outing of the season. Masterson was charged with five runs (four earned) on seven hits, ending with five strikeouts, four walks and one hit batsman.
The Angels (53-63) quieted the crowd early by pouncing on Masterson -- taking advantage of a handful of missed plays on defense in the process -- for a 4-0 lead by the second inning. Helped by a throwing error from Aviles in the fourth, Los Angeles increased its advantage to five runs.
"It wasn't going the way we'd like it to," Masterson said. "But the boys came back and you saw some offensive power, and I think that's a great thing to see by this team."
Four innings into the afternoon, the Indians were staring down the barrel of a seventh loss in seven days. They had not gone 0-7 on a homestand since Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 1990.
Bourn made sure that footnote stayed in the record book.
Following Santana's game-tying home run, the Indians put runners on first and second base for Bourn. With one out, Angels manager Mike Scioscia handed the ball to Nick Maronde, who was ambushed on the first pitch by the Tribe's center fielder.
Bourn sliced the offering down the left-field line, plating Lonnie Chisenhall and pushing Cleveland to a 6-5 lead it would not relinquish.
"There's no one else I'd rather have in that spot," Swisher said.
The Indians can now embark on a nine-game, 10-day road trip through Minnesota, Oakland and Anaheim feeling a little better about their chances of staying in the Wild Card discussion.
After all, the Tribe still has seven weeks to save its season.
Could this win go down as a turning point?
"I wouldn't count it out," Bourn said. "Certain games are key games in a season. This could've been one of them. We'll see in the future. We'll go back and look at it when everything is said and done, and see where we're at."
Asked if Francona's meeting had an impact, Bourn smiled.
"Well, we won," he said. "I guess you could say it worked."