The Indians' Francisco Lindor salutes after hitting a game-winning three-run home run in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday in Cleveland.
CLEVELAND — Cody Allen’s return to the closer role was far from a triumphant one Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
Francisco Lindor’s at-bat with the game on the line was a much different story.
Allen couldn’t hold a one-run lead in the top of the ninth, but Lindor picked him up in the bottom of the inning, lining the first pitch he saw from Minnesota’s Trevor Hildenberger over the wall in right field for a walk-off three-run homer and a 5-2 victory.
“We didn’t hit the ball all over the ballpark, but we played a nice, crisp game and we had a 2-1 lead and all of a sudden it’s gone in a hurry,” manager Terry Francona said. “It was kind of like you got punched in the stomach. But it feels awful good to leave a team standing out there after that happens. Our guys kinda clutched up.”
Allen, who had pitched well recently after being removed as the primary closer, allowed a game-tying homer to Miguel Sano, the first batter he faced in the ninth.
It took the energy out of the park and cost right-hander Mike Clevinger a well-earned victory, but the electricity returned as Cleveland fought back.
Jason Kipnis lined a one-out single into left and after Yan Gomes drove one deep to the wall in center for the second out, Brandon Guyer delivered a base hit into left.
Lindor followed with his 29th homer of the season.
Lindor struck out against Twins closer Fernando Rodney with a runner on second to end the game Tuesday night — a 3-2 Cleveland loss.
“My dad texted me after (Tuesday’s) game and he said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Tomorrow’s another day. God is good. God has a plan and tomorrow’s another day. Good things will come,’” Lindor said. “That’s what I had in my head. I was just ready to hit from pitch one.”
Clevinger worked one of his better outings of the season, allowing five hits — all in the third and fourth — over seven innings.
He got stronger as the game wore on, retiring the side in order in each of the last three innings he worked, while sitting down the last 11 hitters he faced.
“I thought he was terrific,” Francona said of Clevinger, who lowered his ERA to 3.38 over 23 starts. “He got us right where we thought it matched up for (Brad) Hand and then Cody. He gave up the one (run) early. That was it.”
Hand, who has been on the mound in save situations the past week or so, worked a scoreless eighth inning before turning it over to Allen.
Allen, who was riding a string of six straight scoreless appearances, blew his third save in 24 chances.
The Indians’ first two runs were driven in without a hit.
Edwin Encarnacion scored Lindor with a sacrifice fly in the opening inning after Lindor’s leadoff double. Gomes and Guyer started the fifth with singles and Gomes scored on a groundout from Michael Brantley.
It was RBI No. 60 for Brantley, giving Cleveland five players with 60 or more on the season. No other team in the majors has more than three.
For Clevinger, it was no surprise who was at the plate in a key situation for the Indians.
“It’s like every time it’s a spot like this, it’s like, (Lindor’s) always hitting,” he said. “When it’s a chance like this, he’s always hitting. It’s like a sixth sense that you know is going to happen. You look over on deck and you’re like, ‘Does he bat every time it’s a tie game?’ And then every time it seems like he’s coming through. It’s huge.”
Lindor, who was doused with baby powder and piled on upon reaching home plate, was happy to oblige.
“Seeing my teammates and seeing everybody in the stands, it’s the regular season and it feels like playoffs,” he said. “The atmosphere, when everybody is going crazy it feels like playoffs, man and I believe in what we have here. We’re a playoff-caliber team and it’s always fun and special seeing those things.”
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