Francisco Lindor is home and everybody knows it. You would think going from below-freezing temperatures in Cleveland to playing in an ultra-humid 80-degree game in Puerto Rico might have an effect on players, but it didn’t. Not the Indians, at least, and certainly not Lindor.
A native of San Juan who grew up just minutes away from where he played his first career Major League game in Puerto Rico tonight, Francisco Lindor could not have scripted this night any better. In front of his family — including his own mother wearing a Frankie emoji t-shirt — and countless fans, Puerto Rico’s native son belted a two-run home run in the fifth inning that gave the Cleveland Indians their first (and only required) lead of the night.
I don’t have the Statcast numbers for you because Hiram Bithorn Stadium isn’t wired to the teeth like most MLB ballparks, but trust me — it was hit hard and it was hit with emotion. The stadium erupted, and everyone watching with a pulse got chills. I might have teared up a little bit, I’m not afraid to admit it. I feel an immense amount of ego-inflating pride every time someone from my hometown shares a Let’s Go Tribe post I wrote on Facebook; I can’t imagine the emotions Lindor went through doing something that actually matters in front of thousands of his dedicated hometown fans. The thought of it is overwhelming, and the moment itself was beautiful, especially for a region like Puerto Rico so recently ravaged by Hurricane Maria.
It wasn’t just Lindor playing up to the San Juan crowd, either. The entire Indians lineup brought the best kind of baseball to the find people of Puerto Rico — dingers, dingers, some fun gap hits, and Corey Kluber. If you’re looking for perfect baseball, you don’t need to look much further than that.
Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, and Yonder Alonso provided the other dingers on the night. All three were blasted, even if Alonso’s was close enough to the foul pole that Paul Molitor felt it necessary to delay the game by three minutes to have it reviewed. Jose and Michael’s home runs came back-to-back in the sixth, and the latter finished just a triple shy of the cycle in his best game of the season, maybe one of his best games in the last two years.
Bradley Zimmer deserves a shoutout tonight, and he’s another instance where I wish I had the Statcast numbers because he was hitting some lasers to right field tonight. Maybe this is the start of his bat coming around, or maybe not, but he’s riding a four-game hitting streak, which is very encouraging. And he didn’t even strike out tonight.
Kluber was typical nasty self, with a few whiffle ball-like slurves. I would have GIFs of those pitches for you, but you know, Major League Baseball took it upon themselves to ban the account that used to provide those GIFs. The sad part was, arguably Kluber’s best pitch came while everyone in the booth was interviewing Carlos Beltran and they completely missed it.
The best part of Kluber’s night, though, is the fact that he went 6.2 innings, struck out six, walked two, and only allowed one hit — and it was his worst start of the season. That’s just how dominant he and his 1.52 ERA on the season has been. A game well done for most people was a bit of a disappointment for Kluber. He reached 104 pitches, his highest pitch count of the season, and was still looking good through the tail end of them, even if he began sweating like a nervous mall Santa in the humidity.
This game was special, this team is special, Frankie is special, I love baseball.