ARLINGTON, Texas – The only person Francisco Lindor didn’t thank Wednesday night was Sam Dyson. He should have included the Texas closer because without him, the Indians’ shortstop would have been talking a lot more about an error instead of a game-winning grand slam.
Dyson threw a 1-1 sinking fastball to Lindor in the ninth inning that he hit deep down the right field line to give the and a three-game sweep of the Rangers to open the season.
Lindor made an error in the fifth inning that brought home two runs and made a third possible as Texas erased a 3-2 lead by the Indians. It takes a lot to make Lindor stop smiling. That error did it.
“He was really mad,” said Danny Salazar.
Said Lindor, “If you saw me, I wasn’t smiling a lot.”
Asked if he could see the smoke coming out of Lindor’s ears, manager Terry Francona said, “I don’t know, but I think it was coming out of mine.”
Salazar probably wasn’t too happy either. He was on the mound when Lindor turned a third-out grounder by Shin-Soo Choo into a costly error. The error effectively ended Salazar’s chance to win in his first start of the season.
“He came up to me and said, ‘My bad,'” said Salazar. “I told him don’t worry about. I said things like this are going to happen. I say that all the time because I don’t want them thinking that if we lose the game we lost it because of me. I mean look what he did after that. That was amazing.”
Lindor homered in the sixth inning off lefty Cole Hamels to make it 5-4. It was a homer born of anger.
“I just wanted Salazar not to get the loss,” said Lindor. “It was hurting me the whole entire time with how good an outing he had and that he was going to get the loss.”
Salazar watched him round the bases.
“When he hit that first home run, he was still really mad,” said Salazar.
Lindor was desperate to do something, anything, to help his team get back in the game. He walked to start the eighth and stole second, but nothing came of it. By the time the ninth started, Texas had stretched the lead to 6-4.
But Yandy Diaz and Tyler Naquin singled to start the inning. Dyson retired Yan Gomes, but he walked Abraham Almonte and Carlos Santana to force home a run and make it 6-5. Lindor, following Santana’s four-pitch walk, came to the plate thinking one thought – don’t turn a Dyson sinker into a double play.
“I was just trying to hit a sac-fly or something,” he said. “I didn’t want to roll over on a pitch. I wanted the game to be tied and let Michael Brantley win it. I wasn’t trying to win the game, I just wanted Salazar not to get the loss.”
The slam was the first of Lindor’s career. In the locker room Lindor thanked God and his teammates. He thanked the two Ranger fans, a husband and wife, who tracked down the ball and gave it to him. But most of all he was thankful Salazar didn’t get the loss.
“Mental errors like that can’t happen,” said Lindor. “It doesn’t matter how many games I’ve got in the big leagues, they can’t happen.”
But they did and they will in the future. What was uncommon was the way Lindor responded, with or without smoke coming out of his ears.