By Ben Weinrib and Gregor Chisholm
MLB.com |@gregorMLB |
CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor began the 10th inning by bobbling a routine grounder, which put the go-ahead run on base. He was mad at himself, but he knew he had a chance to make up for the error since he would lead off the bottom of the frame.
Eventually, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw escaped a two-on, no-out jam, but when Lindor came up to bat, rain started falling by the second pitch. He broke his bat on the following pitch, and the rain came down harder. But on the seventh pitch, Lindor launched his first career walk-off homer to propel the Indians over the Blue Jays, 2-1, on Saturday night at Progressive Field.
"I was on a mission, but I wasn't trying to hit a home run," Lindor said." I was just trying to get on base and let [Michael] Brantley, [Edwin] Encarnacion and [Jose] Ramirez finish the game. That was a [great] job by Cody and Shaw picking me up. I felt so bad the whole entire inning. I was like, 'God, don't let us lose like that.' We might lose, but I'm trying to lose the right way, not by making errors, whether it's me or one of my teammates."
The Indians and Blue Jays were locked in a low-scoring pitchers' duel in which neither team could truly break through until they reached the bullpens.
Danny Salazar was brilliant for Cleveland after missing seven weeks with a right shoulder strain, facing the minimum through seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. He only let four balls get out of the infield, and the lone hit against Salazar came on a third-inning single up the middle by Kevin Pillar, who was erased one batter later on a double play.
"Attacking the zone, feeling good, not feeling soreness or anything," Salazar said. "As soon as I walked out there, I just tried to be aggressive and attack the zone and use my fastball. That was really big for me tonight."
The Blue Jays tied the game in the eighth on Justin Smoak's home run off Andrew Miller, but they couldn't manage much else. Josh Donaldson reached on Lindor's error, and Smoak walked to start the 10th against Allen, but a Kendrys Morales strikeout and two ground balls ended the threat.
Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman was a worthy opponent for Salazar with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball featuring seven strikeouts, five walks and five hits. He was dealing with a blister throughout the outing but found a way to pitch through it, and despite an on-field visit by the training staff, Stroman did not have to be removed from the game because of his finger problem.
"We went out there and checked that but, hey, he was fine and pitched through it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He did a tremendous job. I've seen him do it all the time, and that's as good as I've seen him. I thought his stuff was dynamite tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Indians strike first: The Indians took the lead in the fourth inning on a ground ball that looked to be a tailor-made inning-ending double play. With runners on the corners and one out, Encarnacion hit a hard grounder to third, but Donaldson's bobble prevented the Blue Jays from being able to turn two to end the inning.
"It was hit so fast," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He hit it hard. As soon as he booted it, you kind of know that we're going to get a run out of it."
Smoak gets revenge: The Blue Jays could not get on the board until Salazar left the game, and once he did, it only took one pitch. Cleveland brought in Miller for the eighth, and Smoak was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against the lefty coming into the game. But Miller left a fastball over the outer third of the plate, and Smoak sent it a projected 342 feet to right field, according to Statcast™, for his 27th homer of the year.
"Smoak, he's just a big, strong kid," Francona said. "Not too many guys are going to do that to Andrew."
"It kept us in the game there and gave us a chance to make a run there in the ninth," Smoak said. "We just came up short there at the end. But he's a great pitcher. Honestly, I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit and it went my way tonight."
"Yeah, as soon as I hit it, I knew. I was like, 'If it doesn't go, I ain't got much left.'" -- Lindor, on if he immediately knew the ball was a home run
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The Blue Jays lost in walk-off fashion for the eighth time this season, which is the most in the American League and second to only Philadelphia (nine times) for the most in the Major Leagues. This game also marked Toronto's ninth loss in extra-inning games this season (3-9).
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ will take the mound for Toronto when this series wraps up on Sunday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET. Happ has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his last nine starts.
Indians: Ace Corey Kluber gets the call for the Indians in their finale against the Blue Jays at Progressive Field. Kluber has been dealing with a stiff neck but has been lights-out since coming off the 10-day disabled list in early June. In his last nine starts, he has a 1.56 ERA with eight quality starts.