CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carrasco did not have much time. Given that it was Indians star Francisco Lindor at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the pitcher figured he had to act quickly if he was going to continue a recent Tribe walk-off tradition.Carrasco ducked into the tunnel behind
CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carrasco did not have much time. Given that it was Indians star Francisco Lindor at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the pitcher figured he had to act quickly if he was going to continue a recent Tribe walk-off tradition.
Carrasco ducked into the tunnel behind Cleveland's dugout, grabbed a bottle of baby powder and made it back up the steps in time to see Lindor's walk-off home run sail into the right-field seats. As the shortstop tore around the bases in celebration of a dramatic 5-2 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night, Carrasco positioned himself in the back of the mob waiting at home plate.
"I didn't see," Lindor said.
Following his three-run shot off Trevor Hildenberger -- a blast that canceled out the blown save by closer Cody Allen in the top of the ninth -- Lindor tossed away his helmet as he bounded around third. As the Progressive Field crowd roared, the energetic shortstop shared an emphatic high-five with third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh and then raised both arms skyward as he closed in on his teammates.
"He didn't see me," Carrasco said with a grin.
The players swarmed Lindor and as the celebratory punches flew, Carrasco reached high over Lindor and began shaking and squeezing the bottle. The baby powder created a white cloud over the plate, as fireworks smoke hovered above the ballpark. Lindor tried to escape as the powder covered his head and got into his mouth and eyes.
"All of a sudden, I ran out of breath," said Lindor, who now has 29 home runs on the season. "And I just tried to get out of there, get out of the pile."
Carrasco -- one of Cleveland's resident pranksters -- savored every second.
"From now on, watch out," he said with a smile. "That's the new Cookie thing."
It was a welcome conclusion to what had been a tough night to that point for the American League Central-leading Indians (63-50). A sacrifice fly and run-scoring groundout were all Cleveland could manage against Twins starter Jake Odorizzi, who combined with Minnesota's bullpen to hold the Tribe to an 0-for-9 showing with runners in scoring position through eight innings.
Indians starter Mike Clevinger did his part in making the most of the slim support, limiting the Twins to one run over his seven frames. In the ninth, Allen took the mound with a 2-1 lead, but promptly surrendered a game-tying leadoff home run to Miguel Sano.
"All of a sudden," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "[the lead] is gone in a hurry. OK. It's kind of like you got punched in the stomach."
Cleveland punched back.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Jason Kipnis slashed a pitch from Hildenberger to get the ball rolling for the Tribe. Yan Gomes then drilled a pitch to deep right-center, but the play ended with a collective gasp from the Cleveland crowd after Twins right fielder Max Kepler reeled it in with a jumping catch at the wall.
Next came Brandon Guyer, who pulled a pitch into left field to put runners on the corners with two outs. It was at this point that Carrasco said he headed into the tunnel to locate the baby powder -- used in walk-off celebrations a handful of times last season.
Naturally, it was now Lindor's turn.
"It's like every time it's a spot like this, he's always hitting," Clevinger said. "It's like a sixth sense. You know it's going to happen. Like, you look over on-deck and you're like, 'Does he bat every time it's a tie game?'"
Hildenberger fired a first-pitch changeup on the outside edge, and Lindor had only one thing on his mind.
"Today, I purposely went out like, 'Yes, I want to win this game,'" said the shortstop.
Lindor delivered, earning all the jabs and punches and powder that came his way.
"I love winning games," said Lindor, who now has three walk-off hits, including two via home run, in his career. "Whether I hit it or somebody else hits it, I'm going to celebrate the same way. Except next time, I'll be the one with the powder."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Allen nearly had an inning-ending double play to escape a jam in the ninth, but an important replay review went the Twins' way. With one out and John Forsythe on second, Logan Morrison sent a broken-bat chopper back to the closer, who turned and fired it to Lindor to get Forsythe out in a 1-6-5 rundown.
After third baseman Jose Ramirez tagged the runner, he fired it to Kipnis at second base as Morrison arrived at the bag. Morrison was deemed safe and that call was confirmed via replay after the Indians challenged that Kipnis got a tag on in time. Allen later escaped further damage in the inning with a strikeout of Ehire Adrianza.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Gomes nabs Garver: In the third inning, as Eddie Rosario swung through a 1-1 pitch from Clevinger, Mitch Garver moved far enough off second base to entice a pick-off attempt from Gomes. The catcher snapped off a quick throw from his knees (Statcast™ measured his pop time at 1.87 seconds, his second-fastest throw to second this season), but Garver was initially ruled safe on his retreat. The Indians challenged the call, which was overturned after a 51-second replay review. Replays clearly showed Lindor tagging Garver's right leg before the runner reached the bag.
"He works on that in Spring Training," said Indians first-base coach and catching instructor Sandy Alomar Jr. "He's a very aggressive catcher, so he doesn't surprise me that he keeps doing it the right way. He's always had one of the fastest transfers I've seen. When he's on, it's a serious weapon for him."
"Wow, what a throw and tag," Francona said. "I mean, I don't even know if it was a tag. Frankie caught it right there on his leg. That was a big, big play."
Cave's rocky first: The Indians were helped to their first run of the night by back-to-back missteps by Twins center fielder Jake Cave in the opening frame. First, Cave broke in on a fly ball to center from Lindor, who wound up with a double after the ball dropped just out of the outfielder's reach. The play had a 99-percent catch probability, per Statcast™. One batter later, Michael Brantley reached when his liner to center went in and out of Cave's glove. Lindor eventually crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly to center field by Edwin Encarnacion.
HE SAID IT
"Don't taste the ball, because he popped that back out while my leg was still like above my head. So then, I had to move out of the way. But that changed the whole complexion of the inning, let alone potentially the game, especially as tight as it was the whole way through. That play, that might've been why things went the way they did." -- Clevinger, on what he was thinking when Gomes picked off Garver in the third
"They play us tough every time we play them. It seems like they're a different ballclub when they play against us. And I like that we rise to the occasion. I know it's still a 10-game lead or whatever, but they're playing like a team that's in first place -- at least every time we've seen them." -- Clevinger, on the Twins
Right-hander Corey Kluber (14-6, 2.63 ERA) is scheduled to pitch the series finale for a 1:10 p.m. ET start at Progressive Field on Thursday. The Tribe ace threw a complete-game three-hit shutout against the Angels on Sunday and is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA against the Twins in 2018. Right-hander Jose Berrios (11-8, 3.51 ERA) will start for Minnesota.
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.