CHICAGO -- Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. has received a first-inning salute nine times this season. When Francisco Lindor launches a home run, the Tribe's energetic shortstop always shows Alomar that respect as he runs around first and settles into his trot.On Wednesday night, Lindor's signature salute was there
CHICAGO -- Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. has received a first-inning salute nine times this season. When Francisco Lindor launches a home run, the Tribe's energetic shortstop always shows Alomar that respect as he runs around first and settles into his trot.
On Wednesday night, Lindor's signature salute was there again to ignite the Indians' 10-2 rout of the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. There were contributions up and down Cleveland's lineup in support of a stellar start by rookie Shane Bieber, but Lindor lit the fuse.
"It just gives everybody such a lift," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Lindor's leadoff shot. "You start off the game 1-0. He continues to do that."
During what has been an incredible season for Jose Ramirez, Lindor has quickly climbed the statistical leaderboards to once again have his say in the American League MVP race, too. Ramirez and Lindor finished in the top five in voting for the annual honor last year, and the dynamic infielders could follow suit this season.
Lindor led off the first inning with a shot over the left-field wall off Chicago pitcher Jace Fry, who started a bullpen day for the South Siders. The shot was Lindor's ninth leadoff blast this year, extending his single-season club record and giving him 12 in his career. Only Grady Sizemore (22) and Kenny Lofton (18) have more in Indians history.
In games featuring a Lindor leadoff homer this season, Cleveland has outscored its opponents, 70-35.
"I love it. Love it," Lindor said of sparking the offense atop the order. "It's fun. It's good that I can get the game going. It's one of the reasons why I told Tito [Francona] that I wanted to be a leadoff [hitter]."
Lindor's home run was his 37th of the season for the American League Central champions, one shy of Ramirez's team lead. Over the past 34 games, Lindor has out-homered the slumping Ramirez, 8-1.
Ramirez helped Cleveland's offensive outpouring with a walk, a double and two runs scored. The double gave the him 80 extra-base hits, making Lindor and Ramirez the first teammates to have at least 80 extra-base hits apiece in back-to-back seasons since Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig achieved the feat with the Yankees in 1936-37.
"They're an unbelievable duo," Francona said. "Josey will get hot again and even when they're not, we love them to death. They're good defensively, they're good players, they're good kids."
The Indians (89-69) also received contributions from slugger Edwin Encarnacion (home run, four RBIs), Roberto Perez (two hits, two RBIs), Michael Brantley (sacrifice fly) and Jason Kipnis (two-run double). That was more than enough to help Bieber improve to 11-5 behind six shutout innings, in which he struck out nine and allowed two hits.
Erik Gonzalez, who took over for Lindor in the sixth inning, exited the game after being hit in the head with a fastball from reliever Rob Scahill in the eighth. Gonzalez went through MLB's concussion protocol and was cleared to travel with the Tribe to Kansas City.
On the season, Ramirez has 38 doubles, 33 steals, 104 RBIs, 107 runs and 104 walks with a .274/.391/.558 slash line and 8.0 WAR, per Fangraphs (third in MLB). Lindor is batting .280/.353/.523 with 42 doubles, 90 RBIs, 125 runs scored and 23 steals, while ranking fifth in MLB in WAR (7.4) and third among shortstops with 14 Defensive Runs Saved.
"It brings Rickey [Henderson] into the conversation," Rajai Davis said, of Lindor's numbers out of the leadoff spot. "Obviously, Rickey was a lot better at taking his walks. He was the master at getting on base. But, that right there, going up 1-0, that's huge. It's just getting us on top. Especially with our pitching, that's a benefit for us."
As incredible as the Indians duo has been, fans will be paying close attention to how they fare in the upcoming AL Division Series against the Astros. A year ago, Lindor and Ramirez went a combined 4-for-38 in the Indians' first-round exit against the Yankees.
Lindor would love nothing more than to spark some wins against Houston.
"They're the world champs," Lindor said. "It'll be a fun series. I can't wait."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bieber's last stand: This marked the final regular-season start for Bieber, who will likely be a part of the Indians' bullpen for the AL Division Series against the Astros. The rookie right-hander was strong, holding the White Sox without a hit until Yoan Moncada reached with an infield single with two outs in the fifth.
"For a kid that's got, what, two-thirds of a year in the Major Leagues," Francona said, "he carries himself really well. He competes. He tries to get better. We feel like, one way or another, he will help us win [in the playoffs]."
Encarnacion's shot: After White Sox reliever Ryan Burr issued consecutive one-out walks in the fourth, Encarnacion helped set the rout in motion. The Tribe's designated hitter crushed a 2-1 fastball out to left for a three-run homer, giving the Indians a 5-0 lead. The blast was the 32nd of the season for Encarnacion, who had three hits and is now batting .338 (22-for-65) in his past 18 games.
Lindor is one of only six batters in MLB history to record at least 20 stolen bases, 35 home runs, 40 doubles and 125 runs scored in a single season. The others on that list include Alfonso Soriano (2002), Shawn Green (1999), Larry Walker ('97), Ellis Burks ('96) and Chuck Klein ('32).
HE SAID IT
"I like it. A lot of other guys just go by. I like it." -- Alomar, on Lindor's salutes
Right-hander Josh Tomlin (2-5, 6.44 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Tribe on Thursday, when the Royals host the Indians in the opener of a four-game series at 8:15 p.m. ET at Kauffman Stadium. Tomlin has a 4.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts vs. two walks in eight games (two starts) since returning from the disabled list. Kansas City will counter with righty Glenn Sparkman (0-3, 4.86).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.