By: Brian Endicott
Cleveland Indians rookie sensation Francisco Lindor is no longer merely a “candidate” for the American League Rookie of the Year Award — he is solidly the “leading candidate.” Lindor went 3-4 with a home run and 4 RBIs last night as the Cleveland Indians defeated the American League’s best team, the Kansas City Royals, 5-1 in Progressive Field.
Indians starter Danny Salazar (W, 13-8) sizzled again, tossing 7 innings of 4-hit baseball, allowing only a solo home run to Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas in the 7th inning. Bryan Shaw struck out the side in the 8th and Cody Allen struck out two more in the 9th as the Indians allowed just 6 Kansas City base runners all evening. Tribe pitchers combined to strike out 11 Royals batters.
But this was the Francsico Lindor show. “Frankie”, as he is called by teammates, opened the scoring in the second inning with a bomb deep into the left field seats off Royals starter Danny Duffy (L, 7-8). Duffy would only last 2.1 innings, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and walking two.
Lindor added two more RBIs in the 2nd on sharply hit ground ball that deflected off the glove of the Royals diving second baseman Ben Zobrist. That hit scored Mike Aviles and Jason Kipnis, giving the Indians a commanding early 4-0 lead. Lindor wasn’t done, a 5th inning single added his 4th RBI of the night scoring Aviles.
Since the All-Star break, Lindor doesn’t just lead all AL Rookies in hitting: he actually leads all qualifying American League hitters. His post-ASG slash is .361/.420/.557 with 7 home runs, 16 doubles, and 32 runs batted in. That second half average is second in baseball behind Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, who is hitting .374.
Lindor, who was called up from AAA-Columbus on June 14th, is hitting .317 in his rookie campaign with 9HRs and 41RBIs. The other top AL ROY contender, Houston’s Carlos Correra, has double Lindor’s home runs with 18, but is 44-points behind Lindor’s batting average at .273. Lindor’s WAR (wins-above-replacement) is rated at 4.1; Correra’s is 3.0.
The Indians will look to win the series over the Royals tonight as 2014 Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber returns from the disabled list after dealing with a sore hamstring. Kluber’s 8-13 season record is deceiving as he has the second lowest run support of all AL starting pitchers at 3.4 runs per start. A win tonight would give Cleveland their 4th consecutive series win and their 6th of the last 7. They’ll be up against Yordano Ventura (11-8, 4.42).
The Texas Rangers crush Houston’s ace Dallas Keuschel last night in Arlington, expanding their lead in the AL West to 1.5 games. Houston’s loss brought Cleveland back within 4 games of the AL Wild Card. The Rangers have taken the first three games of the series with the concluding game 4 tonight. The Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels (the other two AL Wild Card contending teams) begin a 4-game set in Anaheim tonight.