ARLINGTON -- On Wednesday night, inside the visitors' dugout at Globe Life Park, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor was apologizing, even though starting pitcher Danny Salazar would not hear it. Mistakes happen, and a defensive lapse by Lindor is as rare a mistake as they come in baseball.But Lindor's mood was
ARLINGTON -- On Wednesday night, inside the visitors' dugout at Globe Life Park, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor was apologizing, even though starting pitcher Danny Salazar would not hear it. Mistakes happen, and a defensive lapse by Lindor is as rare a mistake as they come in baseball.
But Lindor's mood was unaffected. His blunder in the fifth inning cost Cleveland big. The shortstop with the famous smile was fuming. When he hit his first home run of the game, a solo shot in the sixth, he scowled his way around the bases.
It was only when he launched a go-ahead grand slam in a five-run ninth, powering the Indians to a 9-6 victory over the Rangers, that he finally relaxed.
"He took the game for himself," Salazar said. "He got the 'W' tonight."
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
In the immediate wake of a game that tested his emotions and composure, Lindor secured his grand slam ball from the Rangers fan who caught it beyond the right-field wall. He will treasure that ball for a long time, as it was his first grand slam in a game in which he collected a career-high five RBIs. It also improved the reigning American League champions to 3-0.
More than all of that, though, the baseball represents the "never say die" attitude that has become the brand of this team. It served the Indians well on their way to the World Series last year, and three games into the season, it has been the theme again.
"That's what we're known for. We did it last year, and we're trying to do it this year again," Lindor said. "That's part of our game -- never back down from any challenges."
Lindor was certainly challenged on Wednesday night.
The typically sure-handed shortstop -- who won both Gold and Platinum Glove Awards last year -- botched a routine play in the fifth, a mistake that led to two Texas runs and erased the Indians' lead.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Shin-Soo Choo chopped a pitch up the middle, where it found Lindor's glove. Lindor looked to second, but Jose Ramirez was shifted too far to reach the base in time. Lindor tried to race to the bag, but he was too late, then he rushed a throw that first baseman Edwin Encarnacion couldn't handle.
Cleveland's one-run lead turned into a one-run deficit.
"A mental error. That can't happen," Lindor said. "It doesn't matter how many games I've got in the big leagues, how many games we've got this year. That cannot happen. That probably affected Salazar. He probably could have thrown one or two more innings, the way he was pitching. That can't happen."
In the sixth, Lindor launched his first home run of the season -- a solo shot off lefty Cole Hamels that cut the Rangers' lead to one run. According to Statcast™, the no-doubt shot to left field had an exit velocity of 108 mph and traveled a projected 415 feet.
Even so, he was not satisfied.
"If you saw me, I wasn't smiling a lot," he said. "I knew my home run wasn't going to mean anything because it wasn't going to tie the game."
But in the ninth, down by two runs, the Indians pieced together a rally against Rangers closer Sam Dyson. Yandy Diaz and Tyler Naquin opened with singles before Abraham Almonte and Carlos Santana drew back-to-back one-out walks. That set the stage for Lindor, who sent a sinker from Dyson down the right-field line at 106 mph, traveling an estimated 403 feet, for a stadium-hushing grand slam.
"He kind of had a vengeance," manager Terry Francona said. "That says a lot about his competitiveness, because I know he was mad at himself."
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 listen to his podcast.