Tribe rediscovering benefits of home cooking

Tribe rediscovering benefits of home cooking

CLEVELAND -- One of the Indians' biggest strengths last season hasn't been replicated yet in 2017. But after sweeping the Blue Jays with an 8-1 victory on Sunday, things may be turning around in a key category: winning at home.

The Indians, whose 53-28 home record was second only to the World Series champion Cubs last season, reached .500 for just the fourth time all season (24-24) on Sunday. In fact, the Indians haven't been above .500 at Progressive Field since they won their home opener.

But despite their middling home record, the Indians are still atop their division by 1 1/2 games over the Royals thanks to a strong 27-21 road record. Fix their play at home, and the Indians will be sitting pretty.

"At the end of the year, you could look back and see what you are," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We don't get too caught up in what happened the last week. We keep playing like we did today and this series, then you'll get asked questions like, 'Hey, how's it feel?' Maybe I'll have a better answer. We just need to now put that in the rearview mirror."

Francona on Kluber's outing

Still, Cleveland's three-game sweep showed just how good the team can be. The Tribe outscored Toronto, 23-5, and received elite pitching performances from Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar.

This last stretch is by far the best baseball the Indians have played at home, with wins in six of their last seven games at Progressive Field. And the fans are noticing as well, with two sellouts this series and 99,554 total fans showing up.

"It's huge, especially with this great group of fans that we have supporting us day in and day out," said left fielder Michael Brantley, who ended a 54-game homerless streak with a two-run shot. "To come home to home territory and feel comfortable and get victories and win series is very important for the rest of the way."

Brantley's two-run jack

The Indians will have a chance to capitalize on their hot play with their next seven games coming up against teams with losing records in the Reds, Angels and White Sox. But after that is a stretch of nine straight series against teams with winning records before they open September in Detroit.

"We just need to continue to play the game hard," shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "We haven't had much success, whether it's at home or on the road. We've got to focus on playing the game hard and focus on backing each other up and try to win. At the end of the day, if you don't play hard and try to win, you're not going to be successful."

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.