CLEVELAND — Carlos Santana has pretty much been the only one doing any hitting for the Indians this season. So it was only fitting — and probably predictable — that he came through with Cleveland’s first walk-off win of the year.
With one out in the ninth inning, Santana clouted a solo home run to the bleachers in left field to propel the Indians to a 3-2 victory over Toronto at Progressive Field on Friday night.
Santana connected off a tough customer in Blue Jays right-hander Joe Biagini, who entered the night having allowed only a hit while striking out seven batters in four appearances covering 41⁄3 innings.
Santana followed Jake Bauers to the plate after Bauers drove a ball to the warning track in center.
“Obviously runs have been hard to come by (for us). Watching him use the whole field (has been nice),” manager Terry Francona said. “His first at-bat, he hit a ball to short. He didn’t hit it real hard. The kid made a nice play, but he didn’t abandon that approach and it won us a game later.
“He killed that ball, because I thought Jake hit his ball about as good as he could. So he really put a charge into that one.”
“It was a great moment,” Santana said. “Everybody knows (Cleveland) is my sweet home and I’m so happy to come back. I’m happy for that and happy for the support from my teammates, so I’m happy and it’s positive.”
Santana, who got the sixth walk-off hit (fifth homer) of his career, has accounted for 10 of the Indians’ 36 hits and six of their 19 RBIs, while batting .417 (10-for-24) and posting a .481 on-base percentage.
“I tried to make good contact,” he said. “I was 0-for-3 in the game and I missed a couple foul balls. I was trying not to think too much and tried to hit a line drive.”
With two of baseball’s worst offensive teams taking the field, it was no surprise that a pitching duel broke out.
The teams combined for only seven hits while striking out 24 times.
Shane Bieber made his first start of the season after appearing in a relief role in the season-opening series in Minnesota on Sunday, allowing two runs on two hits, while striking out nine over six innings.
Bieber retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced and owned a 1-0 lead thanks to a solo home run to start the third inning from catcher Kevin Plawecki, who started in place of Roberto Perez for the second time.
It was Cleveland’s third homer and first by a player other than Hanley Ramirez.
Problems arose for Bieber in the fourth when he walked leadoff batter Rowdy Tellez, then allowed a one-out, two-run homer to Freddy Galvis that gave the Blue Jays their first lead.
“I thought one pitch. He left a fastball to Galvis,” Francona said. “He didn’t locate it where he wanted to. Other than that, I thought he was terrific, using his breaking ball. He hadn’t pitched a lot the last 10 days. We kinda had said 90 (pitches) was the bench mark and he got maybe a pitch or two above it, but I thought he pitched really well.”
Cleveland answered in the fifth on a double from Max Moroff, who scored Hanley Ramirez with the tying run after Ramirez led off with a base hit.
The Indians got quality relief work from Neil Ramirez, Oliver Perez and Adam Cimber.
Ramirez struck out two of the three batters he faced in the seventh, and Perez, after allowing a leadoff double to Richard Urena in the eighth, retired the next two and struck out Alen Hanson to end the threat. Cimber retired the side in order in the ninth, striking out the first two batters.
Francona credited Plawecki with lending a hand to the bullpen.
“I thought Plawecki did a great job,” he said. “We know Berto (Perez), what he does behind the plate, but Kevin, being newer here, I thought he got our relievers through those innings. Those were tough, those weren’t the best matchups for Oliver or for Cimber and they both did a great job and I thought Plawecki did a great job.”
Jose Ramirez was not in the lineup after injuring his left foot and leaving Thursday’s game in the ninth inning, but precautionary X-rays were negative and Ramirez pinch hit in the eighth, walking on four pitches.
He stole second base in Cleveland’s first attempt of the season.
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