Shortstop singles after 8-pitch battle to spark 5-run rally
By August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- Before there can be fire, there must be a spark. Before there can be a rally, there must be a baserunner.
Francisco Lindor was that baserunner, and that spark, in the Indians' five-run eighth inning that broke a tie and propelled the Tribe to an 8-3 victory over the Angels at Progressive Field on Saturday night.
The rookie shortstop led off the frame against former Indian and sidearming righty Joe Smith by working a eight-pitch at-bat that ended with a single slapped through the hole between first and second base.
"He's been doing that all year," Gomes said of the 21-year-old. "Getting a guy like Joe Smith to throw that many pitches and let us see him -- you've got the heart of the order coming up right behind him, so it's really important."
By the time Lindor's at-bat was over, he'd forced Smith to throw all three of his offerings -- a sinker, a 4-seam fastball and a slider -- not only giving him the opportunity to time him up, but giving his teammates behind him a chance to do the same while seeing his entire arsenal.
"As the at-bat went on, I had to make the adjustments and see it longer, don't get too big, just get on base," Lindor said. "Just hit the ball on the ground. Do whatever it takes to get on base, you know?"
Smith started Lindor off with a slider that slipped out of his hand and sailed high for ball one. After that, Smith pounded Lindor down in the strike zone with his trademark blend of sinkers and sliders both in and off the plate.
Lindor fouled off two pitches on the corner of the strike zone before taking a 4-seam fastball that came inside. Three more fouls followed before he got a pitch to his liking -- an 89-mph sinker that caught the outside corner of the plate. Lindor poked it through the hole for a single that set up the heroics that followed.
Michael Brantley, having seen Smith's arsenal, swung at the first pitch he saw and singled Lindor over to second. Carlos Santana needed just two pitches to double Lindor in, and then Gomes swung at the first pitch he saw after an intentional walk to Lonnie Chisenhall to slug the game-winning grand slam.
"That was a really good at-bat," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Lindor. "You could tell he spread out and he stayed real short and fouled off some tough pitches. That was really big. The whole inning. Brantley, Santana, they got the ball up and did something with it. But Frankie's at-bat was really big."
August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.