Big Day at the Top Trims Tribe’s Magic Number to Seven; Indians 9, Blue Jays 4

Francisco Lindor paced Cleveland’s offense with a pair of homers and four RBI and Jason Kipnis tacked on three big runs late to support Indians starter Shane Bieber in a 9-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night.

It was a back and forth game from the city of Toronto as the Indians kicked off a four-game set north of the border with the Blue Jays, which had taken two of three games from Cleveland earlier in the season. The Indians had an early lead and coughed it up in a four-run fourth inning, but came right back with a three-run response in the fifth before adding on runs in the sixth and ninth innings to secure their 80th win of the season against 60 losses.

The Indians started the game in fun fashion as Lindor drove the third pitch of the game to right-center for a leadoff home run off of Blue Jays starter Sam Gaviglio. Lindor burned him again his next time up in the top of the third, when he drove a 3-2 pitch just over the wall in right for a two-out solo shot to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.

Lindor – Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Bieber worked around a threat in the first inning from the Blue Jays. Billy McKinney singled to start Toronto’s time at the plate, moved to second on a groundout by Devon Travis, and advanced to third on a grounder to first by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. With cleanup man Kendrys Morales at the plate in a prime RBI opportunity, Bieber struck him out whiffing on a 1-2 slider low and away.

He worked around another jam in the second after a one-out double by rookie Rowdy Tellez, but he was stranded on a strikeout by Teoscar Hernandez and a fly out to left by Deck McGuire.

Bieber retired the side in order on three grounders before running into a mess in the fourth. Gurriel singled and Morales walked to start the frame. Kevin Pillar struck out swinging, but Tellez delivered a big double to make it a 2-1 game while putting a pair of runners in scoring position. Hernandez followed with a double to deep center, driving in both base runners to give Toronto its first lead of the game. McGuire grounded out to second, moving Hernandez 90 feet from the plate, and the runner came in to score on an error at first by Yonder Alonso on a shot by Aledmys Diaz. The eighth man to bat, McKinney, flied out to end the rally with the Jays on top, 4-2.

Gaviglio had allowed just three hits through the first four innings, but that changed quickly in the fifth. After a strikeout to start the inning, Yan Gomes reached on a slow roller down the edge of the infield grass to third. Greg Allen moved him to second with a single and Brandon Guyer made it a 4-3 game with a double to left. Jose Fernandez came on in relief for manager John Gibbons to face Lindor, but the Indians’ scorching hot leadoff man delivered a two-run single on the ninth pitch of his battle with the young Jays pitcher to put the Tribe back on top, 5-4.

Bieber remained on the bump for manager Terry Francona in the fifth after surviving his scare in the fourth. He worked a quick frame, giving up a single to Travis before escaping with a double play grounder by Morales.

The Indians added another run in the sixth on a big two-out hit from the bottom of the lineup. Against Justin Shafer, Edwin Encarnacion kicked off the inning with a single to left. Alonso reached safely on an error by Travis at second and Melky Cabrera walked to load the bases. Gomes lined out to Travis near the second base bag, where he easily stepped on the bag to double up Alonso for the second out. With runners on the corners and two down, Allen tacked on with a two-out double to right, giving the Indians a 6-4 lead.

Bieber retired the side in order in the sixth and struck out McGuire to start the seventh before a base hit by Diaz ended his night. Tyler Olson came on in relief and gave up a single to Randal Grichuk, but with two on in the two-run game, Adam Cimber came through the gates and got Travis to ground into a double play around the horn to end the inning.

Cody Allen walked a tight rope again in the eighth inning looking to hold the game at two. He walked the leadoff man Gurriel before getting the next two. Tellez doubled again, but Gurriel had to stop at third. The dangerous Hernandez stepped in to face Allen, but the Indians right-hander got him swinging on three pitches to leave the score at 6-4.

The Indians broke the game open in the top of the ninth against Mark Leiter Jr. Guyer was hit by a one-out pitch and Lindor moved him to second with a single. Kipnis jumped a 1-1 fastball and drove it out to right for a three-run shot, giving the Indians a 9-4 lead.

Dan Otero handled the ninth, allowing a leadoff double to McGuire and a one-out single to Grichuk, but he got another double play ball off of the bat of Travis, as the Toronto second baseman grounded back to the mound to start a 1-6-3 game-ending twin-killer.

Bieber moved to 9-3 on the year with six and one-third innings of work on the mound. He allowed three earned runs and four in total on seven hits with a walk and six strikeouts. He left with just 89 pitches thrown in a close game after the offense bailed him out after an early hole dug. Cimber and Allen each got holds before the save situation was eliminated with the three-run ninth.

Lindor – Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Gaviglio dropped to 3-8 in defeat for the Blue Jays after not being able to hold onto the lead provided in the bottom of the fourth. He lasted one out into the fifth and gave up five runs in total on six hits with four strikeouts.

Lindor led the Tribe’s offense with a 4-for-5 day out of the leadoff spot. He hit a pair of homers (giving him 33 on the year) and added two singles while driving in four runs and scoring three times. With his sixth multi-homer game out of the top spot in the order this season, he accomplished something that had never been done in Major League Baseball history.

“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’,” said Lindor after the game.

Encarnacion had a three-hit day with three singles and a run scored in his second trip back to Toronto with the Indians.

The rookie Tellez, one night after doubling in his first big league at bat late in the game, added three more doubles in his first four trips to the plate on Thursday, giving him four extra base hits in his first four at bats, the first player in the live ball era to do so.

The Indians played without a familiar face on field on Thursday and will continue to do so for the remaining three games of the series. Chief Wahoo, the polarizing team logo of the Tribe, will not be worn on team jerseys or hats during the series following a legal battle in 2016 when the Indians and Blue Jays met in the American League Championship Series. While the decision of the court was in favor of the Indians, the team opted not to wear them during this current series.

Game two from Toronto is scheduled for a 7:07 PM ET start on Friday from Rogers Centre. Right-hander Marco Estrada (7-11, 5.43 ERA) will take the mound in his fourth start against the Indians in the last four years. He is 0-1 in those games with five homers allowed in 16 2/3 innings. Fellow right-hander Carlos Carrasco (16-8, 3.52) will counter for Cleveland. He is 3-1 in his career against the Blue Jays and has won both of his career starts at Rogers Centre.

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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