Lindor unleashes decisive homer, emotions

Bieber fans 10 in 6 IP, improves to 6-0 courtesy of clutch blast

August 26th, 2020

CLEVELAND -- The bat was still in ’s hands when he turned to his dugout, screaming “Let’s go” in Spanish, loud enough for his voice to resonate through the upper levels of the empty ballpark as the ball traveled 400 feet from home plate.

The Tribe trailed by one entering the bottom of the sixth inning after ’s third consecutive double-digit-strikeout performance, but Lindor put his team back on top with a two-run blast that helped lift Cleveland to a 4-2 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

“It’s just emotions in the game,” Lindor said. “I’m not trying to show anybody up, I’m not trying to disrespect the game. I am who I am. I play the game to play the game. I’m not trying to disrespect anybody. Just getting the team going. If we don’t get the team going, there’s no fans to get us going, so we’ve got to do it ourselves.”

The Indians’ offense has ranked among the worst in the Majors since the start of the season, and the team has been desperately searching for a spark. Entering Tuesday, the Tribe had the third-lowest wRC+ (79), OPS (.654) and batting average (.213) in MLB. Cesar Hernandez and Franmil Reyes have done their parts to try to help carry the club through this skid, but having Cleveland’s leader finally starting to show signs of heating up is exactly what the Indians have been patiently waiting for.

“That was huge,” Indians temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “I think Frankie was so focused today because he knows the pitchers aren't getting that support as of late, Bieber was pitching and Bieber was busting his butt out there, so he was extra focused for that at-bat.”

Over his past nine games, Lindor has hit .351 (13-for-37) with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs. His two-run blast on Tuesday accounted for the first runs he’s knocked in since the start of that stretch on Aug. 16, with a three-RBI game against the Tigers. It was just his fourth multi-RBI game and fifth homer of the year, as the Tribe extended its record to 4-1 in games where Lindor launched a long ball.

“Understand that the numbers will be there at the end of the year,” Lindor said. “Can’t compare your numbers right now with how they’re supposed to end up. Because at the end of the day, there’ll be some players hitting .450 or .400 or .350, and then they’ll end up hitting .320. Whoever’s going to hit .320 is going to hit .320. ... Michael Brantley always said to me, ‘If you’re a .200 hitter, you will hit .200. If you’re a .280 hitter, you will hit .280. That’s just part of the game.’”

The offense’s struggles have put pressure on the Tribe’s pitching staff to be even more perfect than it already is. But after Bieber labored early in the night, permitting two runs while walking three, he settled in to toss six innings with 10 strikeouts -- and the homer gave the Indians a lead before Bieber was replaced in the seventh.

The victory gave the Tribe’s ace, who had received just 14 runs of support in his previous six starts, a Major League-leading six wins on the year, while still avoiding the loss column.

“[Lindor] put a good at-bat together,” Bieber said. “Kind of had a feeling ... that something was gonna happen. We were gonna put a rally together. I wasn’t sure if it was just going to be one swing, but it’s always nice when it is. That was a huge home run. You could kind of feel it in the dugout. Obviously, you saw Frankie’s reaction. We were just kind of hanging in there for as long as possible until we could make our move, and that was it.”

While so much focus has been on the Tribe’s slow offensive start, Tuesday marked the team’s halfway point in the shortened 60-game season, leaving just over one month left for Cleveland to attempt to move its way to the top of the American League Central. The win moved the Indians to 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Twins, tied for second in the division with the White Sox.

“It’s huge,” Lindor said of the Indians' second win in six games against the Twins this season. “They obviously have a great team. Their pitching staff is good. Their hitters are outstanding. It was extremely important. We have a month left of games, so every game counts since Day One. There’s only [30] games left.”