Santana’s Extra Inning Blast Caps Big Night in Pittsburgh; Indians 6, Pirates 3
Bob Toth | On 18, Aug 2020
Carlos Santana’s three-run home run down the left field line in the tenth inning edged the Cleveland Indians past the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-3, on Tuesday night.
Santana has had a flare for the dramatic at times throughout his career and Tuesday night was again one of those nights. Struggling at the plate for the majority of the season to date, Santana stepped to the plate against left-hander Sam Howard. Cesar Hernandez, who struck out to end the ninth, was the designated runner at second base. Jose Ramirez opened the inning with an eight-pitch battle with Howard, fouling off three straight pitches before striking out swinging. Francisco Lindor was plunked to put two on for Santana, who took a first pitch ball low before catching a fastball in on the hands. He whipped the bat around and yanked the ball high and deep down the left field line while falling off balance in the batter’s box. With Chief Wahoo peeking out from the top of his unbuttoned jersey top, Santana stopped on his jog towards first, leaned as if trying to move the ball with his body, and briefly took a step back towards home plate before the home run call went up, beginning his slow trot around the bases to cap his three-run blast.
Howard retired the next two in order, but the Indians had a 6-3 lead.
Brad Hand came on for the bottom of the tenth, looking for his sixth save of the season. With Josh Bell at second, Hand struck out Colin Moran before an infield single by Bryan Reynolds put runners on the corners. Hand needed just three straight sliders to retire Gregory Polanco swinging for the second out and used four strikes to get Erik Gonzalez swinging on the breaking ball to slam the door.
The Indians have now won four straight and moved to 14-9 on the season, including 8-5 away from Cleveland and 2-1 in extra innings. The host Pirates fell to 4-15 on the year.
Santana was the star of the game for the Tribe, getting a pair of extra base hits while driving in five runs to give him nine on the year.
“We knew the ball was hooking, but the ball was hit so far over the pole, it could have gone either way,” said interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr.. “From what I saw, it looked like it was hugging the foul pole on the fair side and ended up way on the foul side. But it was too far up there to tell.”
The blast by Santana was the seventh go-ahead homer in extra innings in his Indians career, the second-most in club history behind Jim Thome’s eight. It measured out at 442 feet with an exit velocity of 111.5 MPH, one of several hard hit balls off of his bat on the night.
“When the umpire said fair,” Santana said as to when he knew his blast was a home run. “Everybody knows I can be patient and take a lot of walks. I see the ball great. I adjust the swing to my pitch. I know I’m patient, but one day at a time. I know the team, they need me, I have to do my job. I’m trying to respond and help my team. I feel great.”
Lindor reached base three times with a single and two walks, scoring two of the team’s runs on the night. Hernandez also scored twice.
The game’s 7:05 PM ET first pitch pitted Ohio native JT Brubaker against Indians veteran right-hander Carlos Carrasco. Brubaker was expected to be limited as he had not worked in a game since August 6, while Carrasco was looking to bounce back from a tough start against the Chicago Cubs last week. Neither pitcher factored in the decision and both had earlier exits than hoped for.
The Pirates got an early run off of Carrasco in the bottom of the first after his offense missed out on a scoring opportunity. Adam Frazier struck out swinging to open the Pirates’ night at the plate before Kevin Newman doubled to the wall in left. Bell moved the runner up 90 feet with a grounder to short and Moran notched an RBI-single to right, putting Pittsburgh on top, 1-0.
Brubaker worked out of some jams as the Indians failed to strike through early. They had two on with two outs in the first before a fielder’s choice force off of the bat of Santana. Tyler Naquin was stranded at second after a leadoff double in the second.
After a perfect bottom half of the second from Carrasco, Cleveland struck quickly in the third as each of the first four batters reached base safely. Hernandez narrowly missed a home run on an 0-2 pitch, settling for a leadoff double. Ramirez drew a six-pitch walk while Hernandez moved up on a wild pitch to put runners on the corners. Lindor drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases for Santana, who got a big hit with a two-run single to center to put the Indians on top, 2-1. Franmil Reyes lifted a fly to center deep enough to score Lindor and Cleveland had a 3-1 lead. Brubaker got the last two on groundouts with the final pitches of his night.
For the second straight start, Carrasco struggled for stretches. He did prevent damage in the third, as the Pirates wasted a leadoff single from Jacob Stallings, and he nearly pitched himself into a mess with a pair of walks in the fourth to put two on with one out, but he got former teammate Gonzalez to line to right before Dyson grounded out to second.
Derek Holland was the first man out of manager Derek Shelton’s bullpen in relief of Brubaker. A bizarre first inning of work for the left-hander included a throwing error by Gonzalez and batter interference by Delino DeShields’ bat entering the field of play after a bunt and contacting the ball, but two strikeouts made quick work of the inning. He used a double play ball around the horn off of the bat of C. Santana to erase a single by Lindor to start the fifth.
The Pirates put together a rally in the bottom of the fifth to knock out Carrasco and tie the game at three. After a strikeout by Stallings, Frazier singled and Newman walked to put two on. Both moved up on a wild pitch by Carrasco before Bell doubled to the gap in right-center, scoring both runners to knot up the score and send Carrasco to the showers. Oliver Perez came on in a tough spot, but he struck out Moran looking and Reynolds swinging to leave Bell at second.
Chris Stratton retired the side in order in the sixth, but exited after DeShields singled up the middle to begin the seventh. Hernandez reached on a bunt, but DeShields was cut down at second on the play. The Indians got their runner over to second on a balk by Nik Turley, but Hernandez moved no further as Ramirez failed to cash in on an extra opportunity after a dropped foul pop by Stallings when he struck out swinging, and Lindor flied out to left as part of the Indians’ 2-for-11 showing at the plate with runners in scoring position on the night.
Cam Hill took over on the mound for Perez with one out in the sixth and got both men that he faced. Phil Maton started the seventh with two swinging strikeouts before a single by Newman and a hit by pitch on the right leg of Bell to put two on. James Karinchak came on and got Moran to ground out before retiring the side in order in the bottom of the eighth.
The Indians had little answer for the Pirates bullpen. Richard Rodriguez pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Keone Kela, making his season debut after a summer camp COVID-19 battle, walked the leadoff man Domingo Santana before getting Roberto Perez to fly out and striking out both DeShields and Hernandez swinging.
Pittsburgh had a chance in the bottom of the ninth against reliever Nick Wittgren, but a little luck went the Tribe’s way after a disastrous start to the frame. An infield single by Dyson off of the glove of a diving Santana at first put the leadoff man on. Stallings dropped down a bunt, but Wittgren elected to throw to second to try to cut down the speedy lead runner Dyson. The throw was not in time to nab Dyson and Lindor’s return throw to first was late on Stallings. With Frazier at the plate and two on, the Indians caught a break as Roberto Perez threw out Dyson straying from second on a foul tip as the runner’s right hand slid into Lindor’s foot blocking the bag in a bang-bang play for the first out. Frazier followed with a fly to right before Newman singled to left to push a runner back into scoring position, but Wittgren got a massive swinging strikeout of Bell to leave the winning run two bases away.
BULLPEN PICKS UP COOKIE
Carrasco was unable to clear five innings for the second straight outing. A high first inning pitch count did a lot of damage, as did the rally by the Pirates in the fifth that delivered the knockout blow to the Tribe starter. He lasted four and one-third innings, allowing three runs on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
“He started well, then he kind of lost his command a little bit,” said Alomar. “Lost his rhythm, his command. He couldn’t command the changeup, which is his big pitch. He was doing too much to the secondary pitches. He couldn’t command his secondary pitches after the fourth inning. His pitch count was piling up and I felt like it was time. We were trying to stretch him out a little bit longer, that way our bullpen could get a break.”
The bullpen stepped up big for Carrasco, shutting down the Pirates over the next five and two-thirds scoreless innings. They surrendered four hits, but did not walk a batter while striking out ten. Perez, Maton, and Karinchak each struck out two while Hand struck out three, missing the plate just four times in 17 pitches.
“They were fantastic. They came through tonight,” said Alomar. “They held the fort. I’m very proud of those guys.”
TITO OUT AGAIN
General manager Mike Chernoff broke the news prior to the game that manager Terry Francona will miss the entire three-game set from Pittsburgh. Alomar Jr. will again serve as the club’s interim manager, while coaching changes were made around the infield with Kyle Hudson taking over the first base coaching duties again and Tony Mansolino replacing Mike Sarbaugh at third base.
Francona is having a “scheduled procedure” done on Wednesday related to his struggles with the undisclosed “gastrointestinal issue” that has been bothering him since the spring. Francona has already missed games from August 3-9 while dealing with the ailment.
BERTO BACK, LEON LEAVES
The Indians activated Perez from the 10-day injured list, an anticipated move following Monday’s optioning of outfielder Oscar Mercado. Unforeseen, however, was the loss of another catcher immediately as the club placed Perez’s backup Sandy Leon on the family medical emergency list. Leon is expected to miss all three games of the series in Pittsburgh.
Game two of three from PNC Park is slated for a 7:05 PM ET start on Wednesday night. Left-hander Steven Brault (0-0, 5.14 ERA) will take the mound for the Pirates, making his first appearance since August 9. The Indians will turn to righty Aaron Civale (2-2, 3.60 ERA), who earned his second win of the season against Detroit over the weekend despite allowing a season-high in runs and hits in an outing.
Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images