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Lindor's debut starts with smiles, ends in shock

@MandyBell02
April 21, 2019

CLEVELAND -- In his first game after being activated off the injured list, Francisco Lindor jogged out to shortstop to start the ninth inning of the second game of the Tribe’s doubleheader with a comfortable four-run lead. But just when it appeared the Indians would pick up their second victory

CLEVELAND -- In his first game after being activated off the injured list, Francisco Lindor jogged out to shortstop to start the ninth inning of the second game of the Tribe’s doubleheader with a comfortable four-run lead. But just when it appeared the Indians would pick up their second victory of the day, the final three outs of Saturday's nightcap at Progressive Field became nearly impossible to secure.

After Trevor Bauer turned in yet another strong performance, racking up 10 strikeouts and allowing just two runs on three hits over 6 1/3 innings, the bullpen couldn’t back him up, allowing the Braves to fight all the way back to take an 8-7 victory.

“You don’t ever assume anything,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of his team’s early 7-0 lead. “You’re supposed to be confident, but at the same time, as a manager, you’re supposed to be aware of what could happen. They’re a really tough lineup to match up against. Part of it is the way they’re constructed -- and part of it is their hitters. So they really present problems when you start thinking about going left-right [matchups].”

Entering the season, the Indians knew they’d need to rely heavily on their starting rotation, and Bauer has done his part to go as deep into games as he physically can. In his first five starts, the right-hander has thrown 108, 117, 115, 112 and 120 pitches, respectively. But after he was pulled on Saturday, reliever Dan Otero immediately gave up a two-run homer.

“I mean, you’ve got to give them credit,” Bauer said. “They made me throw a lot of pitches, and they got me out of the game in the seventh instead of having me go eight or nine, so I guess good job on their approach to them.”

The Indians turned to Adam Cimber in the ninth, who allowed a hit and a pair of walks to load the bases before giving up a two-run single that cut Cleveland's lead to 2. Tyler Olson then took over and walked in a run before giving way to Cody Anderson, who allowed the go-ahead two-run double to Ronald Acuña Jr. that put Atlanta in front, 8-7.

“[Cimber] just lost the plate,” Francona said. “He came in and got a first-pitch fly ball to right off a lefty, and then he made some pitches that were real close, but he just missed wide on numerous [pitches]. That’s probably the last thing you want to do -- you want to make them hit their way back into a game, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Why use Hand in the first game?

Many fans wondered why Francona turned to closer Brad Hand in the Indians’ 8-4 victory in Saturday’s first contest, but the simple answer is he needed work. The left-hander hadn’t pitched since Tuesday, so the Tribe used him with a four-run lead. While that’s not a save situation, if the club would’ve waited for the second game, it would’ve been the same four-run lead scenario as the first. Francona got his closer the work he needed the first time around, as unfortunate as it ended up playing out for Cleveland in the nightcap.

Lindor’s first game back

Lindor got his team fired up in the second inning, pointing and yelling over to his dugout after his base hit to right-center field. The rest of the offense followed suit, as the next six batters all reached safely, putting up five runs in the frame. Lindor’s presence has been greatly missed. Since the start of the season, Cleveland shortstops -- including Eric Stamets who was optioned to Triple-A earlier this week -- had hit .057 with one extra-base hit and three RBIs entering Saturday.

“I had a blast,” Lindor said. “Unfortunately, we lost. It's not the outcome we wanted. But it's good. It felt good to be out there with the team. Felt good to listen to the crowd. It was a tough game, but I was happy to be a part of it.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.