TORONTO — Francisco Lindor is giving the Indians record-breaking power out of the leadoff spot.
Lindor had two solo homers and four RBIs, rookie Shane Bieber pitched into the seventh inning to remain unbeaten in nine road starts and Cleveland beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-4 on Thursday night for its third straight win.
Cleveland trimmed its magic number to seven for clinching a third consecutive AL Central championship.
Lindor has six multihomer games from the leadoff spot this season, a major league record. The three-time All-Star said he likes getting the chance to set the tone.
“Whatever happens, if I do something to help the team in the first inning, teams know, ‘Here are the Indians and they’re here to compete pitch after pitch,’” Lindor said.
Lindor connected on right-hander Sam Gaviglio’s third pitch of the game for his 10th career leadoff homer and seventh this season. He went deep to right off Gaviglio again in the third for his eighth career multihomer game. Lindor has 33 home runs, matching his total from last year. He added a two-run single in the fifth and singled again in the ninth.
“Wow,” manager Terry Francona said. “He was the majority of our offense for a while there.”
Bieber said Lindor’s energy and output are “contagious.”
“It’s huge for us when he’s going well,” Bieber said. “It kind of sparks everybody else.”
Lindor approached Francona at the start of spring training and asked to hit leadoff.
“The minute he said that, I was thrilled,” Francona said.
Lindor’s first blast broke a tie with Houston’s George Springer for leadoff home runs this season, and matched Grady Sizemore’s 2008 Indians record.
Toronto’s Rowdy Tellez doubled in the second and fourth innings after getting a pinch-hit double in his debut Wednesday, making him the first player in major league history with extra-base hits in each of his first three plate appearances.
“He’s the new cult hero in town,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Tellez doubled again in the seventh, joining Oakland’s Ben Grieve as the only players since 1920 to record four doubles in their first two games.
Jason Kipnis hit a three-run shot off Blue Jays reliever Mark Leiter Jr. in the ninth, his 15th.
Bieber (9-3) allowed four runs, three earned, and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, improving to 5-0 away from home.
Gaviglio (3-8) allowed five runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings to lose for the fourth time in five starts.
Trailing 2-0 on Lindor’s two homers, the Blue Jays rallied with four in the fourth. Tellez doubled home a run, Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-run double and scored on a fielding error by first baseman Yonder Alonso.
The Indians answered with three in the fifth. Brandon Guyer chased Gaviglio with an RBI double, and Lindor greeted reliever Jose Fernandez with a two-run single.
Indians outfielder Greg Allen gave his team a two-run cushion with an RBI double off right-hander Justin Shafer in the seventh.
Cleveland’s Tyler Olson pitched to one batter in the seventh. Adam Cimber got two outs, Cody Allen worked the eighth and Dan Otero finished.
Cleveland removed the Chief Wahoo logo from the sleeve of its uniforms for the series, a move that is set to become permanent next season. The decision to nix the logo this series was partially driven by a failed legal challenge against the team when it played in Toronto during the 2016 AL Championship Series. While Cleveland played the Blue Jays, a lawsuit was filed to have the logo and team name banned from Canadian TV. A judge dismissed the case.
The Indians will return to their regular uniforms when they play at Tampa Bay next week.
FOUR AND MORE
Lindor has four four-hit games and four four-RBI games this season. He leads the majors with 117 runs scored.
Indians: LHP Andrew Miller (left shoulder) felt good after a 20-pitch bullpen session Thursday. Miller’s next step is not known. … OF Michael Brantley was held out of the starting lineup after fouling a pitch off his left foot Wednesday. … 3B Josh Donaldson (left calf) had the day off Thursday. Donaldson will play for Double-A Akron in a playoff game Friday.
Blue Jays: Toronto recalled C Reese McGuire and Shafer from Triple-A. McGuire started behind the plate, becoming the 61st player used by the Blue Jays this season, a club record.
Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco (16-8, 3.52) faces Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (7-11, 5.43) on Friday. Carrasco had a 1.85 ERA in six August starts but allowed five runs in a loss to Tampa Bay last week. Estrada has allowed 11 earned runs over his past two outings, losing both.