CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor's audience at Progressive Field is growing accustomed to seeing the shortstop smiling wide out on the field. There it was again on Tuesday night, when he pulled off another stunning defensive play in the second inning against the Tigers.
In the Tribe's 7-3 victory over Detroit, Lindor ranged to his right, dove into the hole to snare a sharp grounder off the bat of Justin Upton, and then gathered himself in the outfield grass to make a precise, one-hop throw to first base for the out. Indians fans are also becoming used to seeing such highlight-reel plays from Lindor, who is showing that his rookie performance last year was no fluke.
"He makes it look routine," said Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin, who was the beneficiary of Lindor's second-inning wizardry. "That's a tough play, and he makes it look easy and gets up like he's done it 100 times. He probably has. He's a stud, that's for sure."
Lindor did more than flash the leather in this win for Cleveland, too.
In the first inning, Lindor pulled a pitch from Tigers starter Justin Verlander into right field for a single and later scored on a double by Mike Napoli. The young shortstop followed that up with a double in the third, scoring one batter later on a Michael Brantley single. In the fifth, Lindor elevated his game one more time, crushing a 3-1 offering from Verlander into the right-field seats for a three-run home run.
The timing of the long ball was crucial for Cleveland. In the top of the fifth inning, the Tigers began to get to Tomlin, striking for a pair of runs to trim the Tribe's lead to 4-2. Three batters into the bottom of the frame, Lindor's shot to the stands in right field provided an ample cushion en route to the win.
"I was pretty surprised," Lindor said with a grin. "I didn't think it was going to go that far. I knew I got it. As soon as I hit it, I knew I got it. But, I'm not a power hitter. I just try to get the barrel as fast as I can to the ball. If they go out, they go out."
Last season, when Lindor finished as the runner-up to Houston's Carlos Correa in balloting for the American League Rookie of the Year, Cleveland's shortstop surprised more than himself with his power. In his 99 games last year, Lindor launched 12 home runs to go along with his stellar .313/.353/.482 slash line. His 4.6 WAR led all AL rookies, and his 10 Defensive Runs Saved paced all AL shortstops.
Through 23 games and 101 plate appearances this year, Lindor has picked up right where he left off. The switch-hitter leads the Indians with 1.1 WAR (per Frangraphs.com) and his 3-for-4 showing against Detroit improved his season slash to .315/.380/.438. Lindor has two home runs, five doubles, 10 walks, 12 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
"He's going to hit for whatever average, because he's good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But, when he starts doing some damage and he starts feeling good, that will really help. ... That's part of the reason he has a chance to be so good, because he can impact the game in so many different ways."
The book is out on Lindor, but he said he has spent the past month adjusting to how teams have attacked him so far in his sophomore campaign.
"Pitchers make adjustments," Lindor said. "So do I. I won't be able to play in this league if I can't make the adjustments. I think that's the biggest thing coming into this year, and the next year, and the following and the following and the following. They're going to have more reports on me, and I'm going to have more reports on them."
And when Lindor makes a big play in the field, get used to seeing that smile.
"I just try to enjoy the game," Lindor said.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.