Latest HR showcases Lindor's refined approach

Latest HR showcases Lindor's refined approach

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor lunged forward, but he still managed to get the barrel of his bat to the pitch. It was not the prettiest swing, but it proved an effective one against A's lefty Sean Manaea, who induced an assortment of off-balance hacks all night on Wednesday at Progressive Field.

Manaea's slider met Lindor's lumber, and the pitch carried just enough to clear the 19-foot wall in left field for a fourth-inning home run. For the Tribe, it was unfortunate that the shortstop's shot marked the lone breakthrough in a 3-1 loss, but the knock did provide the latest example of how Lindor has unlocked a surprising amount of power this season.

"I was completely out front," Lindor said. "It just went out. Good, old Cleveland."

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Manaea had his way with the Indians over seven innings, pounding the strike zone with fastballs and getting hitters to chase his changeup and slider. The lefty was perfect through the first 10 batters he faced -- never falling behind in the count during that stretch. That changed with one out in the fourth, when Lindor took a first-pitch changeup for a ball.

That set up a six-pitch battle that ended with the 2-2 slider that tailed low in the zone to Lindor. The shortstop lofted it to left field with an exit velocity of 97 mph, and the ball traveled a projected 378 feet, according to Statcast™. It was hardly scorched, as evidenced by the 40-percent hit probability on the play. The manner in which Lindor got the bat head to the ball, however, helped result in his 12th home run of the season.

Lindor, who is pacing American League shortstops in voting for the All-Star Game, leads the Indians in home runs and slugging percentage (.541). Last year, he turned in a .435 slugging percentage and finished with 15 homers in 158 games.

"He's stronger I think than people realize," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I mean tonight, that ball was down and he was out in front, but he stayed through it so well. I just think the experience -- the 1,000 at-bats or 1,200 -- there's no replacement for that. And when you're a really good player and you start to get experience, I don't think it matters what you did [in] the Minor Leagues."

Over the past three seasons, Lindor has seen his average launch angle on balls in play increase to 12.2 degrees in 2017 from 7.6 degrees in '16 and 3.2 degrees in '15. The shortstop insists he did not undergo any kind of mechanical overhaul. He has instead improved in that area through a combination of pitch selection and where he connects.

The home run on Wednesday gave a glimpse into Lindor's refined, and increasingly powerful, approach.

"[It's] getting the barrel to the ball, getting the barrel out front," Lindor said. "The at-bat before, I hit it a little bit closer to my body. And then the second at-bat, I hit it a little more out front. That's the difference. I won't hit any home runs [if the ball travels too much]. All my home runs are going to be out front.

"Whether it's opposite, pull or center field, all my home runs are going to come when I get the barrel out. It's just, I don't know, it's a blessing."

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 Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.