CLEVELAND — Francisco Lindor has been somewhat of a mess defensively in May. He’s also been virtually unstoppable at the plate.
Since the calendar flipped to May, the Indians’ star shortstop has arguably been the best hitter in baseball. He extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games on Sunday. He entered the game with a 1.540 OPS in May and has raised his average 76 points, to .321 from .245. No other player has as many home runs (eight) or extra-base hits (16) in that stretch, and he has at least one extra-base hit in 11 of the last 12 games.
On Saturday, Lindor accomplished something — four extra-base hits in a single game — that no Indians leadoff hitter had done since Tito Francona, the late father of manager Terry Francona, did so in 1964. He has continued to raise his own bar, and has gotten his teammates talking every time he steps to the plate.
“I think every time he comes up, there’s a new topic that comes (up) in the dugout,” Yan Gomes said. “It’s unbelievable. You know that he wasn’t going to be the slow starter that he was before. You know that he’s going to come back and start producing like he usually does, and he’s a tremendous player. It’s one of those things where he’s on both sides of the field, so it’s exciting to have him on our side, for sure.”
Lindor, who has committed five errors in May, has had a knack in the past of belting a ball after making a defensive mistake. He’s had a two weeks worth saved up, and while there’s not necessarily a correlation there, it has happened to coincide with the best offensive stretch of his career, albeit it a short one.
Lindor has rated well defensively this season with five defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs, but the eight errors this year will stick with a player who has often taken each mistake personally.
Even on grounders Lindor thought he should get with a dive but doesn’t reach often end with him pounding the dirt. And, at times, it was only an inning or two later before he launched a home run. He says there’s no difference with how he plays, miscue or not, but there’s quite the pattern. The Indians have seen it before.
“Came back with a vengeance, and he did,” Francona said, speaking of how Lindor has that knack. “I mean, he’s had a couple of tough games, there’s no getting around that and that’s baseball. Players do that.
“But, boy, he sure is talented. I mean, he’s come a long way. You look three weeks ago he was hitting, I don’t know, whatever. And he just, I know I say it, when he uses the whole field, he stays balanced, and he’s strong enough with his hands he can get rewarded when he hits the ball the other way.”