Before the season, many articles were written referencing Francisco Lindor’s 60-watt smile. Here was a new superstar with personality, who plays the game with unabashed joy. But there is way more to Lindor than just the marketing buzzwords. If you have a chance, check out his post-game interview on STO; you’ll get a glimpse into the mind of a player who took accountability for a mental error, who thought first and foremost about his teammate, and was able to focus that energy to make amends later in the game, first in the sixth inning (sans smile) and most importantly in the ninth inning, with everything on the line.
The error that got so much under Lindor’s skin happened in the fifth inning. Danny Salazar allowed the first two runners of the inning to get on, but then buckled down to retire the next two batters. Then he got LGFT Shin-Soo Choo to ground weakly to Lindor, who was stationed behind second base. Lindor thought he could get to the base ahead of Joey Gallo, but he underestimated the distance he had to travel. Gallo got to the bag first. Lindor then threw to first base, but Edwin Encarnacion wasn’t anticipating the throw, and the ball bounded into the stands, which allowed two runs to score. Had Encarnacion caught the throw, Choo would have been out at first. Salazar would allow another unearned run when Nomar Mazara singled home another run.
That play turned a 3-2 lead into a 5-3 deficit, and under a lot of circumstances the Rangers would have pulled away for an easy victory. But this was a special game. First, Lindor got one of the runs back with a solo homer in the 6th inning. Meanwhile, the front end of the bullpen kept the team in the game, the only damage coming on an Elvis Andrus home run. Francona was trying to avoid both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, so Dan Otero (who gave up the homer), Zach McAllister, Shawn Armstrong, and Bryan Shaw finished the game.
The Indians threatened in both the seventh and eighth innings, but couldn’t push across a run. And so they trailed 6-4 in the ninth when Texas closer Sam Dyson came in, trying to make amends of his own after
a blown the Opening Day save loss. Yandy Diaz greeted him with a solid single back up the middle. Then Tyler Naquin, who was trying to take Dyson the other way, bounced a ball over the drawn-in Gallo to give the Indians runners at first and second with nobody out. Yan Gomes flew out, but then Abraham Almonte put together a fantastic at-bat, drawing a walk and loading the bases for Carlos Santana. Lando also was patient in a tense situation, watching four straight pitches fly outside the zone, bringing the Indians to within a run.
All this set the stage for Lindor, who had a rare opportunity to single-handedly win a game he had previously lost.
Bryan Shaw finished off the Rangers, retiring them in order in front of a stunned ballpark.
What a game. Heck, what a series. The Indians finished off their first three-game sweep in Arlington since 2008, and their first 3-0 start to a season since 1998. They scored 21 runs in those three games, with 8 of those runs coming in the ninth innings of those games.
This is going to be a fun ride.