Santana takes his turn as Indians walk off with a win
Nine of the Indians 36 home wins have come in walk off fashion
By PAT McMANAMONFS Ohio
CLEVELAND -- Call it what you will.
Perhaps even special, though that term might not apply with two months left in a season.
But there is something something going on at Progressive Field with the Cleveland Indians.
Perhaps even like … gasp … wait for it … 1995 … when the Indians made a specialty of dramatic wins. They are doing it again in 2013 -- with nine of their 36 home wins coming via walk off fashion, the hits coming from eight different players.
Wednesday night it was Carlos Santana’s turn to scamper around the bases to the mob scene at home plate, as his home run to the lower deck in right field in the bottom of the 10th beat the White Sox.
It was the ninth time this season the Indians got a walk-off win, the fifth time it was a home run.
“It never gets old,” said Micheal Bourn, part of the crowd that greeted Santana at the plate after his swift scamper around the bases.
“It’s kind of fun hitting somebody with some water in the face when they’re coming in to the plate,” Mike Aviles said.
The guy who did it talked about how he hit a 3-2 fastball in -- a good pitch, Santana said -- after thinking he had walked on the 3-1 pitch prior.
“I said, ‘Wow’” Santana said. “I appreciate that with the umpire. Three-and-one. It’s a ball, but he called it a strike. And the next pitch I get a home run.”
Those were hardly the only dramatics of the night though. The Indians fell behind 5-3 in the top of the ninth as Cody Allen had to deal with a shrinking strike zone. But in the bottom of the ninth, they got a leadoff double from Michael Brantley and had two on when Jason Giambi was hit by a pitch. Drew Stubbs tried to sacrifice, but beat out the bunt for a hit -- which set up sacrifice flies by Bourn and Jason Kipnis to tie the game.
Chris Perez blew through the 10th, which set up Santana’s game-winner in the 6-5 win -- and briefly broke the placid postgame demeanor of manager Terry Francona.
“I had a ball out there … ” he said. “I love it. Right in the middle of that (ninth) inning, I was so damn nervous, but in a good way. You think you’re gonna win; you’re not sure how. It’s a fun feeling.”
Fun can be described in the last six games against Chicago and Texas: A 10th inning home run from Santana to win. Last at-bat hits by Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes to win in the bottom of the eighth. A pinch-hit walk off home run by Giambi, making him the oldest player in major league history to achieve that feat. Back to back shutouts by the pitching staff. And a three-run walk off home run by Raburn in the 11th.
Which means the Indians have won on their last at-bat in four games, with two shutouts thrown in. They’ve now won seven in a row, 12 of 16 and 14 of 20. They are 11 games above .500 and … if the playoffs ended July 31 … would be the second wild card team.
“All the time, we play hard, game for game,” Santana said. “When they tied the game (in the sixth), I don’t see any player with their head down.”
Francona pointed to Stubbs getting the bunt down in the ninth, saying: “You do the little things right it leads to some big things.”
The manager even admitted relieving Corey Kluber with one out left in a tie game in the ninth for Allen wasn’t a great idea. He said he called for the bullpen because Dayan Viciedo had seen Kluber three times and had some good swings.
“It ended up not being a real good move on my part,” Francona said.
But his team didn’t quit, something that is a cliche but is also a touchstone for this version of the Indians. The ‘95 team was loaded with big bats and big hitters; this team is loaded with little engines that truly can.
“You got G pinch-hitting with a homer,” Aviles said. “You got ‘Los hitting a homer after playing the whole game. The thing about it which I enjoy is the fact that every night it’s somebody different. That shows you the kind of chemistry we have. We’re always rooting for each other. It’s a fun way to win every night.”
“We don’t really try to give in too much no matter what the score is,” Bourn said. “In baseball anything can happen. Sometimes our pitching picks us up, sometimes our offense picks us up.”
And sometimes the manager gets picked up, which Giambi did two nights prior.
On Wednesday, there was no pickup, but there was a fast high five from Sandy Alomar Jr., who turned to Francona and high-fived him as soon as Santana’s bat hit the ball.
“I was thinking, ‘Do we bunt him over?’” Francona said. “Sandy knows this ballpark better than I do.”