Slow start behind him, Santana producing with authority
In a week in which the wheels came off what was shaping up as a promising road trip, Carlos Santana erased almost all of the memories of a slow start.
Santana hit a major league-best .556 this past week against the Twins and Royals, going 15 of 27 with six home runs and 10 RBI. Five of the homers came in the four-game series against Kansas City including multi-homer games on Friday and Sunday. He has homered in three straight games, matching a career high from 2011, and five of the past six.
The barrage against the Royals also made Santana the first player in the majors this season to homer five times in a series and the first since the Giants Hunter Pence against the Dodgers last season (Sept. 12-15). Santana also ties the Indians record for home runs in a series, joining Hal Trosky (1934), Joe Carter (1989), Albert Belle (1995), Matt Williams (1997), and Travis Hafner, who homered five times in a two-game set against the Angels in 2004.
Said manager Terry Francona to reporters about Santana after Sunday’s game: "He’s been a blessing for us. He’s hitting good pitching and again that will be a big part of us getting going. They’re not just hits but they are doing a lot of damage."
Santana was hitting as low as .148 in late May and was batting .159 after the first two months of the season. Since coming off the seven-day disabled list for concussion-related symptoms in early June, Santana has raised his average to .232. Since June 6 he is 51 for 164 (.311) with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.
The one thing that Santana has done well throughout the season is draw walks as he leads the majors with 72, Santana has reached base in 17 straight games and has a seven-game hitting streak as the Indians return home for an eight-game homestand.
"I think we all knew it would come. I never wanted to get him out of the cleanup but I thought it was weighing on him a little bit," Francona said. "When we got hot not to move him back would have been penalizing him for the first two months."
The Indians lead the majors with 30 homers in July. Santana’s eight homers are tied with the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo for the most this month. Yan Gomes is tied for ninth with five.
At the beginning of the week it appeared as if the Tribe had a chance to make up even more ground in the Central and the Wild Card race. After going 2-5 though, including dropping three of four at Kansas City, it was the Royals who took advantage.
Going into the homestand, the Indians are 6 1/2 games behind Detroit in the division and 3 1/2 in back of the Yankees for the final Wild Card. The series against Kansas City ended a stretch where 17 of 21 games were against division foes. They were 9-8 in the division.
GOOD WEEK (BESIDES SANTANA …)
Pitching: After returning to the rotation, Danny Salazar won both of his starts. The right-hander allowed four earned runs in 12 innings but Sunday’s start against Kansas City was the most encouraging as he didn’t walk a batter in seven innings. In both starts, Salazar was more efficient with his pitches. … Corey Kluber had a perfect game for 6 1/3 innings in Thursday’s series opener. He was also the third pitcher since 1914 to go nine innings, strikeout at least 10 batters and allow two base runners or less.
Batting: After struggling for the past two months, David Murphy was 7 for 17 and drove in two runs. … Yan Gomes was 10 for 27 and has hit safely in 10 consecutive starts.
Pitching: The bullpen allowed four home runs. … Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister struggled in their starts against the Royals. Tomlin ended up being optioned to Columbus while McAllister needs to develop another pitch besides relying on his fastball.
Batting: Nick Swisher had an 0-for-21 stretch before hitting an RBI single in the seventh inning. Swisher’s season average is hovering near Mendoza Territory again at .203. … After being named AL Player of the Week last week, Jason Kipnis followed that up by going 2 for 26.
Fielding: Ryan Raburn’s "spike" during the eighth inning of Thursday’s game against the Royals that allowed Mike Moustakas to score.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Seattle at Cleveland
First pitch: 7:05 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday.
Probables: Tuesday — RH Trevor Bauer (4-5, 3.93) vs. RH Hisashi Iwakuma (8-5, 3.09); Wednesday — RH Corey Kluber (10-6, 2.77) vs. RH Felix Hernandez (11-2, 1.99); Thursday — RH Zach McAllister (3-6, 5.65) vs. RH Chris Young (9-6, 3.04)
Of note: Mariners took two of three in Seattle in late June. Hernandez is second in the AL in strikeouts with 173 and Kluber is third with 162.
Texas at Cleveland
First pitch: 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Of note: Indians took three of four in Texas in early June. Jim Thome’s statue will be unveiled on Saturday.