MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Lindor has taken his show on the road. Indians fans are growing accustomed to seeing the rookie shortstop turn in highlight-reel plays and impact the top of the lineup, but Lindor gave those at Target Field a glimpse into his potential on Saturday night.
In Cleveland's 4-1 loss to the Twins, Lindor dropped jaws with a some defensive wizardry on a double play in the sixth inning and he also delivered the Tribe's first hit, disarming rookie Tyler Duffey's no-hit bid in the top half of the frame. Showing his determination to develop into a leader for the Indians, Lindor's comments drifted away from all the good he did on the field.
Maybe not, but Lindor displayed why Cleveland believes he is integral in picking up more wins going forward.
Both offensively and defensively, Lindor has been one of the top shortstops in the Majors in the second half of this season. He has provided a spark in the second spot of the lineup and turned in a series of defensive gems since taking over as Cleveland's shortstop. The latter was present again on Saturday.
With one out, a runner on first and the Twins holding a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning, Minnesota's Trevor Plouffe pulled a pitch from Tomlin toward the hole on the left side of the infield. Lindor quickly ranged to his right and dove after the sharply-hit grounder, which he snared as he crashed to the dirt.
"When the ball was hit, I was anticipating it to be hit to that side," Lindor said. "He was trying to drive [Miguel] Sano in and I was anticipating he was going to hit it to my right side. He hit it and, as soon as I dove, I knew I had a chance. I didn't feel it, the impact. You don't really feel it. And I looked in my glove and I had it."
Lindor swiftly recovered, shifting to his feet and firing to second baseman Jose Ramirez, who completed the double play with a relay to first base to nab Plouffe to end the inning. According to Statcast™, Lindor's first step was calculated at 0.24 seconds, he quickly covered 10.3 feet and he had enough time to snap a 67-mph throw to Ramirez with enough accuracy to initiate the twin killing.
"That was an unbelievable play," Tomlin said. "It got me out of a jam right there."
Indians manager Terry Francona limited his praise of the impressive play, though, because Lindor had a rookie moment earlier in the game that nearly cost the Tribe. On a routine grounder from Joe Mauer in the fourth, the 21-year-old shortstop made a throwing error that allowed Mauer to reach second base. It took a slick barehanded play by rookie third baseman Giovanny Urshela to escape the inning unscathed.
"Athletically, he's capable of doing that," Francona said of Lindor's double play in the sixth. "And it's certainly exciting to watch those. I'll brag more about him when he moves his feet on the routine [plays], because those are every bit as important. But, I admit, that was a play that not a lot of guys can make."
At the plate, Lindor's one-out double in the top of the sixth ended Duffey's no-hit run at 19 batters.
"I'm not letting someone else throw a no-hitter against us," said the rookie.
Lindor ended the night 2-for-3 with a walk, but his contributions, along with Cleveland's ninth-inning comeback attempt, fell short in the second tilt of this three-game series in Minnesota.
Through 53 games, Lindor has hit .296 with five homers, nine doubles, 24 RBIs and 25 runs for the Indians. In the second half, he has turned in a .364/.393/.500 slash line through 110 at-bats. Heading into Saturday's action, his 1.4 WAR (via Fangraphs) in the second half ranked second to only Houston's Carlos Correa among qualified American League shortstops.
On the year as a whole, Lindor's 1.6 WAR ranks seventh among all AL shortstops and his six Defensive Runs Saved are the most in the AL among shortstops with at least 400 innings at the position.
"A lot of times, young guys, they might get hot at the beginning and then the league catches up," Francona said. "But, as he's starting to play, you're starting to see him make some adjustments and not just trying to survive in the Major Leagues, but impacting games and helping us win. He's been good."