KANSAS CITY -- Unwritten rules do not always apply under the heightened pressure of a postseason hunt. When Indians rookie Francisco Lindor stepped to the plate to lead off the seventh inning on Sunday afternoon, the last thing he was worried about was the ongoing no-hit bid by the Royals.
"I'm just trying to get on base and make something happen," Lindor said after the Tribe's 3-0 loss.
Lindor squared around and bunted a pitch from Kansas City reliever Ryan Madson to the left of the plate, beating it out for a single. The Kauffman Stadium crowd let Lindor hear it with a chorus of boos, but they had the last laugh when the rookie made a baserunning blunder later in the inning that halted the Tribe's best attempt at a rally.
For a moment, Lindor provided the kind of spark that has helped him develop into a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year contender. After his gaffe on the basepaths cost the Indians in the top of the seventh, he felt responsible for the loss, which dropped them four back of Houston for the American League's second Wild Card.
"I messed up," Lindor said. "It's my fault."
Michael Brantley followed with a walk and then Carlos Santana flew out to deep right field, allowing Lindor to sprint from second to third. What happened next led to a pair of replay reviews and plenty of confusion throughout the ballpark.
Lonnie Chisenhall lined a pitch hard up the middle, where Madson made a smooth catch for an out. Brantley was caught too far off first base and tried to scamper back, as the reliever made an errant throw. Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer snared the ball and attempted a tag, but Brantley avoided it and was safe in his retreat -- which was challenged by Royals manager Ned Yost and confirmed.
On the play, Lindor ran home and slid across the plate head-first for Cleveland's first run -- except he never tagged up after Madson's catch. That was confirmed through a crew-chief review, bringing an end to the Indians' rally attempt.
"I thought he got there awful quick," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "[Third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh] said, 'Out of the corner of my eye, I didn't know if he tagged.' I just think it happened so quick that [Lindor got caught up in the moment]."
Bunting for a hit to break up a no-hitter, while fair in terms of the rulebook, is typically frowned upon. In this situation, though, it was acceptable. Kansas City only had a 2-0 lead at the time and the Royals were aiming for a combined no-no, as opposed to having one starter pushing for a place in history.
"They are fighting for the Wild Card," said Yost. "I would've been a lot more [ticked] off if there had been a single guy out there throwing a no-hitter. I just wanted to win the game. And they wanted to win the game."
Francona echoed that sentiment.
"I thought it was outstanding," Francona said. "We're not trying to break up a no-hitter. We're trying to win a game. If they have an issue with it -- I saw [Royals shortstop Alcides] Escobar saying a few things -- they can take that up with me. I thought it was a very good bunt."