Santana Slugs Tribe to Walk-off Win Over Blue Jays; Indians 3, Blue Jays 2
Bob Toth | On 05, Apr 2019
A little time away can do people some good. That seems to be the trick for Carlos Santana, whose strong start in his return to Cleveland continued on Friday night as he deposited a game-winning solo homer into the bleachers in left field with one out in the bottom of the ninth to give the Indians a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Indians fans were treated to a very familiar sight on Friday as Santana provided the Indians with his fifth career walk-off home run, lifting up another light-hitting performance from the offense. He stepped into the batter’s box for the fourth time on the night with one down in the bottom of the ninth, set to match up with Jays’ reliever Joe Biagini. He found an 1-0 two-seamer to his liking, lofting a high drive the opposite way into the tunnel of the bleachers in left to cap off a comeback for the Tribe and a celebration at home plate.
Santana needed his final at bat to extended his on-base streak to start the season to seven straight games, but he made the wait more than worth it with his first walk-off shot since June 17, 2016 (against the Chicago White Sox’s Nate Jones).
The final result overshadowed a well-pitched game by both starters, neither of whom factored in the final decision.
Young Indians right-hander Shane Bieber struck out three of the first five Jays hitters to start his night. Brandon Drury erased any chances of a second straight no-hit threat with a two-out single to left in the second, but Bieber escaped with a fly ball from Freddy Galvis. Bieber retired the side in order quietly in the third.
Trent Thornton, a newer member of the Jays staff after being acquired in November from the Houston Astros, was off to a similarly good start, striking out a pair in the first two innings while facing the minimum. That changed in the home half of the third as Kevin Plawecki worked a seven-pitch at bat and sent Thornton’s second 3-2 offering over the wall in left for his first hit and homer as an Indian, putting Cleveland on the board, 1-0.
Both pitchers breezed through the fourth inning, adding a strikeout to each of their lines. The fifth, however, turned into a strange inning for Bieber, as he lost Rowdy Tellez after getting ahead of him 0-2 and walked him on seven pitches. He bounced back to strike out Drury on three straight for the first out, but his second pitch to Galvis was a fastball that missed over the plate. The Jays shortstop sent the pitch high, deep, and gone to right field to put Toronto on top for the first time, 2-1. Bieber did well in damage control after that, striking out the next two.
The Indians responded in the bottom half with a contribution from the bottom of the lineup. Hanley Ramirez jumped on the first pitch of the inning and singled to center. Brad Miller fouled out to third and Plawecki popped to short for the second out. Max Moroff stepped in and struck quickly, driving a double to right that went all the way to the wall. Ramirez, running on contact, was sent by third base coach Mike Sarbaugh. Socrates Brito’s relay throw to the cutoff man was mishandled, allowing Ramirez to finish his sprint to the plate without a play as the Indians tied the game at two. Moroff was stranded at third as Eric Stamets struck out swinging.
Bieber returned for the sixth, striking out two more and walking one in his final frame of work. Thornton followed a similar path, striking out the first two before walking Jake Bauers. Manager Charlie Montoyo hooked him for Javy Guerra, who got Santana to ground to third.
The Jays threatened in the eighth. After an inning of perfect relief from Neil Ramirez in the seventh with a pair of strikeouts, Oliver Perez entered for his second appearance of the season. The first batter, Richard Urena, doubled to deep right. Luke Maile could not get down a bunt and instead grounded out to third. Brito moved the runner up with a groundout to first for the second out. Teoscar Hernandez was intentionally walked, but with the switch-hitting Alen Hanson brought on for Billy McKinney, Cleveland manager Terry Francona stayed with Perez. The move paid off as the veteran southpaw struck out the pinch-hitter to leave a big run 90 feet from the plate.
The Indians missed out on an opportunity against Daniel Hudson in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead. Moroff grounded out, but Jose Ramirez pinch-hit for Stamets and drew a walk. With Leonys Martin at the plate, Ramirez stole second (the Indians’ first attempted steal of the year) on a play that withstood Montoyo’s replay challenge. Martin struck out looking and Tyler Naquin grounded out to second to leave the go-ahead run stranded.
The Indians improved to 3-1 on the year at home and are above the .500 mark for the first time on the season as a whole at 4-3. The Blue Jays fell to 3-6 on the year and 0-2 away from Rogers Centre.
BE A BELIEVER
Big things are hoped for from Bieber this season, and he lived up to the billing in his first start and second appearance of the season. After allowing a run on two hits in two innings in a relief appearance last Sunday, he made his season debut as a starter on Friday and shut down the Blue Jays’ offense. His only real mistake left the yard on the Galvis homer. He lasted six in a quality start, allowing two runs on two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. He threw 91 pitches (58 for strikes) and got 19 swings and misses as his offspeed stuff was tough on the day.
THORN IN THE SIDE
Thornton pitched well again in his second Major League start. After throwing five scoreless innings in his debut against Detroit last weekend, he limited the Indians to just two runs on three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. He finished just one out short of his first career quality start.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers followed their parent club’s lead on Friday night, winning in walk-off fashion over the Indianapolis Indians, 5-4, in eleven innings. Yu Chang drove in the winning run in the person of Mike Freeman, who started the inning at second base due to the ridiculous minor league extra inning rules and beat the throw from right field with a head first slide into home plate.
The Clippers wore their special Veleros de Columbus uniforms for the first time on Friday. The club is participating in the Copa de la Diversión this season.
Jason Kipnis went 0-for-3 in his first rehab start for the Veleros. He grounded out on an 0-2 pitch in the first, bunted out with one out in the third, and grounded to short in the fifth. He was replaced by Freeman defensively in the top of the seventh.
Carlos Gonzalez had his second straight two-hit effort to open his 2019 campaign. He had a pair of singles and a walk while striking out in two of his other three at bats. Cameron Maybin and Ryan Flaherty each had one hit, with Maybin hitting his second double of the year while walking three times and striking out once, and Flaherty hitting a single with two walks and two strikeouts while serving as the team’s designated hitter. Oscar Mercado, who had two hits in Thursday’s opener, struck out four times in six at bats for the golden sombrero.
PAIN IN THE NECK
The Blue Jays were once again without slugger Justin Smoak, who was a late scratch for the second straight contest due to a neck injury.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON MATINEE
The two clubs will get right back at it on Saturday in a 4:10 PM ET first pitch.
Former Indians pitching prospect Thomas Pannone (0-1, 1.80 ERA), who was traded to Toronto in 2017 in the Joe Smith deal, will make his first start of the season and his third appearance overall in a spot start for the Blue Jays. He will face Tribe right-hander Carlos Carrasco (0-1, 12.46 ERA), who will look to bounce back from a rough start in his debut last Sunday. He allowed six runs (all earned) on ten hits with a walk and four strikeouts in a loss to Minnesota.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak