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Michael Brantley has Reason to be Confident Facing Santana

Michael Brantley has Reason to be Confident Facing Santana

| On 25, Apr 2013

On Friday night the Cleveland Indians begin a three game road set against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals have come on strong to start the season, leading the American League Central Division through the first 18 games of the season. The Indians are coming off a two game split with the White Sox and could use a boost against division rival Royals to help the Tribe climb the ranks in the Central Division.

One matchup that could be particularly intriguing is the battle between Royals Friday night starter Ervin Santana and Indians outfielder Michael Brantley. Going back to the beginning of the 2011 season, Brantley has notched 15 plate appearances against Santana with a home run and a .357 batting average. Add to that Brantley’s .285 career batting average against right-handed pitching and this could be his chance to start a hot streak at the plate.

Brantley’s dominance against Santana began on April 13, 2011 in Los Angeles; Santana was pitching for the Angels at that time. In his first at bat Brantley hit fly ball down the line in left field that was caught by Vernon Wells. The ball was hit hard but Wells made a nice play right on the line to take extra bases away from Brantley. He came up again in the third inning and smashed line drive up the middle. This one fell in front of Angels’ center fielder Peter Bourjos for a single. He faced Santana one more time on the day, crushing a ball to the gap in right-center. The drive bounced off the wall and Adam Everett scored as Brantley trotted into second base with a stand-up double. Three well hit balls and two hits on the day for Brantley.

The two faced off again on July 27, this time in Cleveland. Brantley did not fare as well, but he hit the ball hard on the day. In the first inning he hit a fly ball in the right-center gap that was run down by Torii Hunter for an out. In the fourth inning Brantley led off with a hot ground ball in the hole on the right side. Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo made a diving stop jumped up and flipped to Santana who just beat the speedy Brantley to first base for an out. He came to bat again against Santana in the seventh. He again hit a grounder to the right side, this one easily fielded by Trumbo who stepped on first for another out. They would face off a final time in the ninth where Brantley flew out to center field for the last out of the game. The out was a bit significant in that it was the final out of Santana’s no-hitter.

In all on the season, Brantley faced Santana seven time getting two hits. At least two of the other outs could have easily been hits if not for excellent defensive plays. One interesting thing if note is the way Santana pitched Brantley. According to the pitchf/x charts on texasleaguer.com, Santana threw a total of 26 pitches to Brantley and 21 of them were four-seam fastballs, the other five were sliders. In general, the pitches seem to be fairly well centered in the strike zone.

The 2012 season was a bit of a different story. Brantley continued to hit the ball well off of Santana, logging three hits in seven at bats including a home run. He faced Santana for the first time on the season again in April. Brantley singles on a line drive into left field. He walked in the fifth inning, and then singled on a ground ball into right field in the seventh.

The faced off again on July 4. Brantley came to the plate against Santana in the first inning with Jason Kipnis on second base and Travis Hafner on first. Brantley crushed a change-up over the fence in right field for a three run home run. The Indians would chase Santana out of the game in the second inning and go on to win the game 12-3.

The way Santana pitched Brantley in 2012 looked vastly different from 2011. Much more diversity of pitches mixing in a great deal of sliders along with change-ups; and the pitch location was for the most part down and away. Santana was obviously making some adjustments but Brantley still hit the ball well against him and got results.

Brantley showed a great ability to counter the adjustments Santana made to try and get him out. He faced a variety of pitches that moved down and away and he still got three hits in seven tried including that home run.

The Indians could use a hot hand at the plate; they have scored just five runs combined in the two games against the White Sox. With the starting pitching woes continuing, every run the Tribe can muster counts. Let’s hope Brantley continues to hit well against Santana and helps the Indians take game one of three against the Kansas City Royals.

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images