CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona did not have to ask if Francisco Lindor wanted to hit leadoff this season. During the spring, the Tribe's energetic shortstop brought it up himself, explaining that he wanted the responsibility of setting the tone.On Thursday night, Lindor did precisely that in support of
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona did not have to ask if Francisco Lindor wanted to hit leadoff this season. During the spring, the Tribe's energetic shortstop brought it up himself, explaining that he wanted the responsibility of setting the tone.
On Thursday night, Lindor did precisely that in support of Trevor Bauer's strong start, launching a leadoff home run to help awaken the Indians' offense in a 9-3 rout of the Tigers at Progressive Field. Cleveland had maintained hope that its offense would warm with the weather, and Lindor led the way in backing up that belief.
"He's played with a ton of enthusiasm and energy," Francona said. "And he knows we need that from him. Not only him, but everybody else will heat up."
On the warmest night in Cleveland this season, Lindor put away the ski mask he had been wearing on the field of late and opened the first inning with a nine-pitch battle against Detroit starter Michael Fulmer. He watched four pitches and fouled off four more. He saw four-seam fastballs and sinkers. Fulmer threw him sliders and showed off a changeup.
Finally, Lindor sliced a 2-2 two-seamer high over left field, where the ball sailed through the warm air and easily cleared the 19-foot wall. That sparked a two-run first inning which was followed by a four-run second (capped off by a two-run shot from Jose Ramirez). Three more in the fourth sent Fulmer to the showers.
"It felt great," Lindor said of starting the Tribe's 15-hit attack. "The whole at-bat I was feeling good. I was working the count. I was trying to get a good pitch to hit. He threw me his fastball, his changeup, his slider, every pitch he has. So, my teammates were aware of every pitch he had that day and what they were doing. Overall, it was a happy at-bat for me."
The Indians scored just 10 combined runs in the first five games of the homestand, while the players took the field with hand warmers and extra headgear, and fought through near-freezing temperatures. When the first-pitch temperature climbed north of 50 degrees on Wednesday, Cleveland answered with five runs. On Thursday, the lineup thrived in the 74-degree weather.
Inside Cleveland's clubhouse, the players knew it was only a matter of time before the bats turned a corner.
"[It was] great for all of them," Bauer said. "It's nice pitching from ahead and having a comfortable lead as well. Nice on the pitching side, nice on the hitting side and nice for team morale. I don't think any one of them doubted that we were going to hit like this."
While Fulmer allowed a career-high nine runs (six earned) in three-plus innings, Bauer logged seven innings for the Tribe. The Indians right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits in the win, which gave Cleveland's rotation a 1.25 ERA in 50 1/3 innings over the past seven games at home.
"Awesome. They're doing what they do best," Lindor said of the pitchers. "They're competing day in and day out. They're helping us. They're giving us a chance to win and that's very important. That's all we ask for."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
New life for Brantley: In the fourth inning, Michael Brantley popped up a 3-2 pitch from Chad Bell, sending it high into foul territory on the third-base side. Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario drifted over and camped under the popup, but botched the catch for an error. Given a second chance, Brantley then drove a pitch from Bell to the wall in right for an RBI double to give Cleveland a 9-1 lead.
Bauer's escape: Bauer ran into trouble in the second inning, when he allowed a single to Victor Martinez before later issuing a walk (JaCoby Jones) and hitting a batter (Jose Iglesias) with two outs to load the bases. Bauer then used a 1-1 curve to induce an inning-ending fielder's choice groundout off the bat of Dixon Machado, preserving the Tribe's 2-0 advantage at the time.
The win was the 11th in a row for the Indians against Detroit. In each those victories, Cleveland's pitching staff has limited the Tigers to three or fewer runs, posting a 1.00 ERA in 99 innings in that span.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bradley Zimmer complemented his three-hit showing at the plate with a dynamic diving catch in right-center field. In the seventh, Machado sent a pitch from Bauer over the gap, where Zimmer hustled to cover 66 feet in four seconds, per Statcast™. The center fielder snared the ball from the air with an all-out diving grab. The batted ball had a 45-percent catch probability, making Zimmer's play a four-star catch.
"Boy it's amazing, and I had a great view of that," Francona said. "I never thought he wasn't going to catch it. That's probably not fair to him."
HE SAID IT
"He's as advertised; a really good player. He's all over the field. He covers a lot of ground. He's got a great arm. Offensively, he's up there hacking. If you throw a first-pitch fastball, you have to believe it has a good chance to get whacked."
--Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, on Lindor
Right-hander Mike Clevinger is slated to start for the Tribe on Friday in a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against the Blue Jays at Progressive Field. Over the 2017-18 seasons, Clevinger has gone 12-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 23 outings as a starting pitcher. Toronto will send Marcus Stroman to oppose him.