MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Lindor hoisted the Indians' offense on his shoulders on Thursday night, accomplishing something that has only been done four times in more than a century's worth of recorded baseball. And that is what it took to avoid having another bullpen meltdown send Cleveland to the loss column.In
MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Lindor hoisted the Indians' offense on his shoulders on Thursday night, accomplishing something that has only been done four times in more than a century's worth of recorded baseball. And that is what it took to avoid having another bullpen meltdown send Cleveland to the loss column.
In a 9-8 victory over the Twins, Lindor launched a pair of home runs, including a go-ahead shot in the eighth, collected two doubles and drove in four runs to power the Cleveland lineup. He had help from his friends -- specifically, Jose Ramirez belted his 18th homer of the season to pull into a tie for the Major League lead -- to guide the Indians to a win in the opener of this four-game series at Target Field. Cleveland has now won six straight.
"They're a pretty amazing combination," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Lindor and Ramirez. "It seems like they just keep getting better, and we're going to need it."
Lindor joined Adrian Beltre (2007), Jim Edmonds ('03) and Rafael Palmeiro (1993) as the only Major League players since at least 1908 to have two games with two doubles and two homers within the same season. The Indians' energetic shortstop is the only player to do so in a single calendar month, having also achieved the feat on May 12.
Lindor also became the first shortstop with a pair of games with four extra-base hits in the same season.
"That's why he's hitting first," Francona said. "We want him to get as many at-bats as he can. And when the lineup turns over, it's nice to have a bat as potent as his sitting there."
Ramirez moved into a tie with Michael Trout, Bryce Harper and J.D. Martinez for the MLB high in home runs. Eleven of Ramirez's clouts have come in a scorching month of May for the third baseman. Lindor's multi-homer outburst against the Twins gave him 10 this month. That makes Ramirez and Lindor only the third pair of Indians teammates in history -- and the first since 2002 -- to each have at least 10 homers in the same month.
"It's unreal," Lindor said of Ramirez. "It's unreal, because you know, you can tell, pitch after pitch, what he's trying to do. And he accomplishes it. It's fun to watch him. I'm glad he's on my team, and I'm glad I had a chance to grow up with him."
In a five-run outpouring against Twins starter Jake Odorizzi in the fourth, Lindor delivered a three-run homer and Ramirez followed two batters later with his solo shot. Lindor also doubled to lead off the first inning, helping set the table for a three-run frame against Odorizzi, who departed after being charged with eight runs (seven earned) over 3 2/3 innings.
Minnesota struggled to solve Indians rookie Shane Bieber early on, but the Twins began chipping away at the large deficit with two-run showings in the fifth and sixth. In the latter, Logan Morrison and Eduardo Escobar connected for consecutive homers off Bieber, who left after allowing four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in his Major League debut.
"I thought the last inning he was up more and he was losing his command," Francona said. "But I still thought it was exciting to watch what he can do. When it was all said and done, he really didn't throw as many strikes as he usually does. So I think there's better days ahead, which is exciting. But his poise and the way he pitches -- he pitches like a veteran."
Cleveland's bullpen, which currently has an MLB-high 6.13 ERA, let the Twins back in the game by relinquishing four runs in the seventh. In a span of three hitters, Dan Otero hit a batter, Jeff Beliveau gave up an RBI single and Zach McAllister yielded a game-tying three-run homer to Miguel Sano.
That paved the way for more heroics from Lindor.
With one out in the eighth, Lindor drilled a 2-2 offering from Addison Reed on a line to deep center, where the ball easily cleared the wall. After sprinting around the bases following his 14th homer of the year, Lindor raised his hands skyward and then gave a firm clap, nodding his head as he made his way to the dugout.
"Those are two of the best guys in the league," Bieber said of Lindor and Ramirez. "So it's really exciting to be a part of. I don't know if I could say enough. I could start, but the clutch hitting, the early hitting, everything. It's really exciting to be a part of and to have those guys in my lineup and not facing them."
BIEBER IMPRESSES IN DEBUT
Bieber was poised and precise with his pitches for the first four frames, looking more like a veteran than a rookie who was debuting on his 23rd birthday. His beard masked his youth, and his control-based approach had the Twins guessing early on.
"We were all very impressed," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "Anybody can speak to first-inning jitters in your debut. Everybody was thinking, 'Let's get this guy through the first inning and let him roll.' He goes out there and bam, bam, bam -- right off the bat. He handled himself like he'd been there before and it was impressive."
In the first inning, Bieber's Major League career began with a strikeout of James Dozier. The right-hander knew from the get-go that this was a one-and-done opportunity, and he did well in making a strong first impression.
As can be the case for extreme strike-throwers -- Bieber has issued only 13 unintentional walks within 1,022 batters faced in his Minor League career -- the starter slipped as he got deeper into the game. The second and third time through the order against Bieber, the Twins' lineup went 7-for-13 with three extra-base hits.
"Once you get the first couple outs under your belt," Bieber said, "I think you definitely start settling in and saying, 'OK, I'm supposed to be here. This is where I'm meant to be,' and all that stuff. And, 'My stuff will play.' I was definitely nervous the first few pitches and first few outs."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Following Lindor's go-ahead homer in the eighth, the Indians had runners on the corners with one out for Edwin Encarnacion. The slugger hit a sharp grounder to Morrison, who stepped on first base for an out before firing to catcher Mitch Garver, who tagged Michael Brantley as he attempted to score on the play. The Indians challenged the out at the plate and a catcher's violation. The out stood and the non-interference ruling was confirmed, resulting in an inning-ending double play.
"We had just asked, one, if he was safe, and two, if he blocked the plate," Francona said. "One, I thought he was safe. And two, I know he blocked the plate. We'll try to talk to somebody with the league, because it seems silly to have a rule in place if you're not going to enforce it."
HE SAID IT
"It started early in the morning. I woke up and my body knew it right away. It's kind of one of those things, but fortunately, I had the whole day to kind of calm myself and breathe it in and really try to enjoy it and cherish it. A lot of guys around here and in Columbus, and Tito and the coaching staff and all them, they told me to really enjoy it and take it all in. I think I did a good job of that, and it's something I'll cherish forever." --Bieber, on battling nerves before his debut
"To be honest, around the third inning, I was like, 'He's pretty composed for it to be his first time on a big league mound.' He looked like he belonged. He looked like he's been doing it for a long time, and that's why he was successful tonight." -- Lindor, on Bieber
For the month of May, Lindor and Ramirez combined to hit .356/.432/.747 in 225 at-bats with 21 home runs, 25 doubles, 29 walks, 33 strikeouts, 48 RBIs and 53 runs scored.
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (6-3, 3.98 ERA) is slated to take the mound for the Tribe on Friday, when the Twins host the Indians in an 8:10 p.m. ET divisional clash at Target Field. Carrasco has gone 3-2 with a 2.91 ERA in six road starts this year. Minnesota will counter with righty Jose Berrios (5-5, 3.67 ERA).
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.