Clutch Lindor buckles down under pressure

Indians shortstop comes through in big spot with tying triple, winning run

Clutch Lindor buckles down under pressure

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor usually has a song running through his head when he walks to the plate. Especially when the pressure is mounting on the field, the lyrics and beat that flow in his mind serve as a distraction for the Indians shortstop.

As Lindor walked to the batter's box in the ninth inning of Thursday's 5-4 walk-off win over the Royals, the internal tune of the night -- "Space Jam" by the Quad City DJ's -- disappeared on him. With the Progressive Field crowd buzzing, and the game-tying run on third base, Lindor had something else consuming his mind.

"Brantley's voice," Lindor said with a laugh.

An inning before Lindor's ninth-inning heroics, which set off the second walk-off celebration in as many nights, the shortstop was chatting with outfielder Michael Brantley. The young shortstop had been dealing with a minor slump of late, going without a hit in a dozen at-bats heading into this series with Kansas City. As Lindor prepared for his ninth-inning plate appearance, his drought included only two hits within a stretch of 19 at-bats.

Brantley -- one of Cleveland's most reliable and consistent hitters when healthy -- offered some advice to Lindor.

"He was like, 'You can't go to the plate thinking, "I've got to get a hit,"'" Lindor said. "'Think about making hard contact. If you make hard contact, that's a plus. Think what you did right and, after that, take it to the next at-bat.' That's what we were talking about."

Lindor on win over Royals

As the ninth inning unfolded, Lindor focused on Brantley's words.

Make hard contact.

Facing Kansas City reliever Joakim Soria -- closer Wade Davis was not available to pitch because of a recent heavy workload -- Carlos Santana began the ninth by ripping a pitch to right field. Santana hustled up the first-base line and around the bag, and then sprinted to second after right fielder Paulo Orlando bobbled the ball. That marked the third error of the night for the Royals, who saw the Tribe capitalize on each miscue.

"You don't see that happen very often," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But I also think Carlos put himself in a position where maybe he kind of helped the miscue, because if you don't push it, that doesn't happen."

Francona on walk-off win

Lindor moved to the on-deck circle, where he watched Jason Kipnis move pinch-runner Michael Martinez to third with a sacrifice bunt.

Now it was up to Lindor, who received a 92-mph inside fastball from Soria. The shortstop ripped the pitch into the right-center-field gap, where it skipped past a diving Orlando and bounced to the wall. Martinez scored, and Lindor sprinted hard around the bases before diving headfirst into third for a game-tying triple.

"I was just thinking, 'Make hard contact,'" Lindor said. "And I hit it and I was like, 'Yes, I did it.' That's what I wanted to do."

That set the stage for Mike Napoli, who lofted a pitch high into left field, where it dropped into the glove of Jarrod Dyson. Lindor did not care how deep the baseball traveled -- the shortstop said he was running home "no matter what." He tagged up at third and bolted for the plate as soon as Dyson squeezed the leather around the ball.

"No one is stopping me," Lindor said. "As soon as I saw the ball go up, I'm going. I'm going. I'm going."

Lindor slid across the plate in plenty of time and then burst to his feet. He threw his helmet to the sky and was swarmed by teammates. The shortstop savored another emotional comeback.

"We can do it," Lindor said. "The game's not over until the 27th out."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for 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.