Lindor's 33rd HR sets Tribe middle-INF record
Dynamic shortstop 'not just a home run threat' in torrid 2017
SEATTLE -- As Francisco Lindor sprinted around third base, the Indians' shortstop turned to look at the third-base dugout at Safeco Field. While his teammates cheered and pounded the rail, Lindor's eyes went wide and he dropped his jaw. Maybe he is even surprised by what he is doing right now.
The leadoff home run that Lindor launched to open Saturday's game lit the spark on an 11-4 romp over the Mariners. The shortstop has been bursting with energy of late and setting a torrid tone atop the lineup, but manager Terry Francona has wanted to give him a breather. They compromised with a day spent as the designated hitter, and keeping his bat in the mix proved important once again.
"I'm fine," said Lindor, who flashed the smile that's seemingly becoming more famous by the day. "There's no point to having an off-day when we've got another one on Monday."
The home run was Lindor's 33rd of the season, giving him the most in a single season by a middle infielder in franchise history. The previous mark of 32 was set by Hall of Famer Joe Gordon in 1948, when the Indians last won the World Series. Cleveland can only hope that a footnote such as that one is offering a bit of foreshadowing, because Lindor is hoping to help the Tribe end that championship drought.
Lindor has done more than his part of late.
Over the Indians' past 30 games, in which the club has notched 28 victories, Lindor has hit .339/.414/.737 in 133 plate appearances. In that time period, the switch-hitting shortstop has hit more homers (12) than doubles and triples combined (nine). He has more walks (14) than strikeouts (13), and he has as many RBIs and runs scored as games played (28). In Saturday's win, Lindor went 2-for-5 with a homer, a double and three runs.
"He's dynamic, man," Indians outfielder Jay Bruce said. "He takes really, really good at-bats and he's not just a home run threat. He hits the ball all over the field, switch-hitter. So, he's tough. It kind of mitigates the matchup opportunity. He's impressive -- he really is."
It is funny that Bruce would describe Lindor as being more than "a home run threat," because this many homers were not a part of the projections during the shortstop's early days as a prospect. Yet, here Lindor is with 30-plus homers and 40-plus doubles, joining Travis Hafner (2005), Manny Ramirez (1996), Albert Belle ('95), Hall Troski ('34 and '36) and Earl Averill ('34) as the only Indians players to achieve those marks in one season.
Lindor is the only player in Cleveland history with at least 10 steals, 30 homers and 40 doubles in a single campaign. Justin Upton is the only other player in the Majors to claim that kind of season this year, and it is something that has only been done 59 times since 1913.
Asked if he envisioned himself as a 30-homer hitter, Lindor smiled.
"I envisioned myself driving the ball," Lindor said. "If it goes out 30 times -- 33, 34 or 20 times -- I'm fine with it. As long as I'm helping my team win. That's what it's all about."
And, when Lindor trots around the bases, he will keep looking back at his teammates in the dugout.
"I love it," Lindor said. "Whenever I hit a home run and they're right there on the top step cheering me on, it's pretty cool."