Red-hot Lindor shows savvy for sac bunts
Francona praises rookie's approach to situational hitting
CHICAGO -- Francisco Lindor has been one of the American League's hottest hitters in the second half. The Indians' rookie shortstop has also given himself up at a high rate, to the point where he leads the league in sacrifice bunts in fewer than a half-season's worth of games.
When it comes to all the bunts, the decision has not strictly been coming from Tribe manager Terry Francona.
"There's been times where I have not put it on," Francona said of calling for a sacrifice. "There's been times when I've put it on. There's been times I've put it on and taken it off. Again, it's situationally. And there's been a lot of times when once we've put it on, he stays with it. There's been times where he's bunted for a hit."
The sixth inning of Sunday's 4-0 win over the Tigers provided a mixture of those scenarios.
With runners on first and second and no outs against Detroit's Justin Verlander, Francona called for a bunt on the first pitch. Then, Francona called off the bunt play, but Lindor still attempted a sacrifice before pulling the bat back for a called ball. For the third pitch, Francona got Lindor's attention, told him to swing away, and the rookie obliged and delivered a two-run triple that held up as the game's winning hit.
"That's one of those where, if it didn't work out," Francona said with a laugh, "I'd get a letter from the older segment of our fan base telling me how stupid I am."
Prior to Monday's game against the White Sox, Francona praised the attitude and approach of the 21-year-old Lindor, who has shown a willingness to give himself up if he thinks it can help Cleveland win. That said, the manager added that the young switch-hitter will get better at picking the appropriate times to take that sacrificial approach.
Entering Monday, Lindor led the Majors with 11 sacrifice bunts, but he also had a .306 average on the year and a .351 average since the All-Star break. There are times -- like in the sixth inning on Sunday -- when Francona wants Lindor to swing away and try to do damage with his bat.
"I like the idea that he's thinking about trying to play the game right," Francona said. "There's actually times where I think it's better served to let him swing. But again, as we get to know each other, those things will be a lot easier. There's going to be times where a guy doesn't have a good feel for that pitcher and he's like, 'You know what? I can lay a bunt down here.'
"But, there's also times where, like I said, he might think he's doing the right thing, and we think we've got a better chance to have first and third with [Michael] Brantley coming up. But, those are things you kind of work through. In the meantime, I like the idea that he's always trying to do what he thinks is the right thing."