SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A home run, at his homecoming.
Say this for Francisco Lindor: He clearly has a flair for the dramatic.
Playing as a big leaguer in his native Puerto Rico for the first time, Lindor connected on a two-run home run to open the scoring and help spark the Cleveland Indians to a 6-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
And yes, the moment was just as the All-Star shortstop imagined.
“I love the Cleveland Indians fans. I love them. They’re supporters, big-time,” Lindor said. “But this is where I grew up. These are my people. It’s extremely special.”
He seemed to skip around the bases, crossed home plate and threw his arms into the air, enticing the already-screaming crowd to go even louder. They obliged, and eventually Lindor emerged from the dugout for a curtain call — in what technically was a road game, no less. The Indians were the visitors in this one.
No matter. Lindor seemed more at home than anyone else.
“Our goal was to win, but it was pretty cool to see Frankie come through like that,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “To see the way the fans responded, and then to see how genuinely excited he was about it, it was pretty cool.”
So, too, was Indians ace Corey Kluber, who allowed one run in 62⁄3 innings. He gave up five hits and struck out six, lowering his ERA to 1.52.
Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez each had three hits for Cleveland in the first regular season game on the island commonwealth since 2010. Brantley and Ramirez hit consecutive homers in the sixth, and Yonder Alonso added a solo homer in the eighth for Cleveland.
Brian Dozier had two hits for the Twins, including an RBI double in the seventh that chased a sweat-drenched Kluber after 104 pitches. Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi (1-1) gave up six hits and four runs, all of them coming across on homers, in five-plus innings.
“I’m pleased that my country came out to support us,” said Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario, like Lindor a native Puerto Rican — and on this night, a co-favorite of the sold-out crowd of 19,516 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, “Great emotions to be here. Happy that we’re here.”
Lindor and Rosario will have more Puerto Ricans on the field with them in Wednesday’s series finale, with the Twins sending right-hander Jose Berrios to the mound and the Indians set to start Roberto Perez at catcher.
Lindor finished 1 for 5, the homer flanked by a pair of warning-track flyouts. Rosario was 1 for 4.
The series was scheduled before Hurricane Maria hit last September. The recovery from the catastrophic storm has been the focus of this trip for the Twins and Indians.
“These people need to cheer,” Lindor said.
So in the fifth, he made it happen.
No. 9 hitter Bradley Zimmer hit a two-out double and Lindor worked the count full. As horns blared, inflatable thundersticks clanged and fans — including his mom — screamed, Lindor turned on an offering from Odorizzi and lofted a long fly to right.
It barely cleared the wall, but it was enough.
“Quality pitch,” Odorizzi said. “Same pitch I’ve gotten outs on in the game. Different result.”
Lindor waved both arms at the crowd after crossing the plate, then came out for a curtain call as delirious fans shouted his name. That started the undoing for Odorizzi, who was cruising before giving up three homers in a span of 10 pitches — the last two by Ramirez and Brantley ending his night and giving the Indians a 4-0 lead.
“Most importantly, we got the win,” Lindor said. “That’s all that matters.”
Twins CF Byron Buxton, who was slated to start and bat eighth, was scratched about three hours before game time with a migraine. Robbie Grossman took his spot and started in right, and Max Kepler slid over to center.
San Juan’s Bernie Williams, a four-time World Series winner with the Yankees, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his guitar. Carlos Beltran threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and fellow Puerto Ricans Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Javier Vazquez and Carlos Delgado were among those on the field for pregame events.
Indians coach Sandy Alomar Jr. spent most of the off day Monday at his family’s home, hanging with his parents, sister and niece. His mother cooked a staple — chicken, rice and beans. “Like old times,” he said.
NOT HOME COOKING
Twins manager Paul Molitor isn’t exactly thrilled that his club has two “home” games in San Juan, especially against an AL Central rival. Then again, the Indians are 10-1 in their last 11 games at Minneapolis.
The statue of Hiram Bithorn, Puerto Rico’s first big-leaguer, will be back, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said. The statue outside the front gates of the ballpark toppled in Maria’s winds. “It is a metaphor for what is happening, how resilient we’ve had to be and how things will get done,” Cruz said. “Perhaps not as fast as we want, but in San Juan, we will get them done.”
The series ends Wednesday, when Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco (3-0, 3.48) starts against Berrios (2-1, 2.18).
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