On a night with possibly the bleakest Indians lineup card to date, it was an old favorite that came through for the Tribe.
Carlos Santana’s walk-off home run was a pretty run-of-the mill dinger as far as dingers are concerned. A cool 102 miles per hour and 395 feet off Blue Jays pitcher Joe Biagini, it wasn’t even one of his most impressive hits on the season. But the symbolism of it all, having come back after a frustrating year with the Phillies, only to hit his first 2019 home run in walk-off fashion on the same day he became a United States citizen, is something pretty special.
Through the first six games of the season, we’ve already seen the patient side of Carlos at the plate, with his 13 percent walk rate and 8.7 percent strikeout rate, but the home runs hadn’t come. Now they have, and hopefully they won’t ever stop. I could go on forever about how great it is that Carlos is back, or how well he’s been hitting the ball this season, but those things have already been covered extensively at Let’s Go Tribe, and for good reason: Carlos Santana is awesome.
It wasn’t just Santana’s homer that helped the Indians pull out a win tonight. It was also their fifth starter, Shane Bieber, turning in yet another outstanding performance from this rotation. Allow me to reiterate the key point in that sentence:
THEIR FIFTH STARTER
It was the second-year pitcher’s first start of the season after having his spot jumped to keep Corey Kluber on track, but if it bothered him not pitching for over a week, he didn’t show it at all. Bieber worked out a bit more out of the zone than usual, but the result was nine strikeouts, tied for the second-highest of any start in his young career.
Bieber’s lone boner came on a very ill-advised pitch to no-hitter-ruiner Freddy Galvis in the fifth inning.
Other than that, and being let down by some questionable route-running from Tyler Naquin, it was yet another stellar star by an Indians pitcher; something every starter not named Carlos Carrasco has had at least once already this season.
The one curious thing from the outing was that Bieber didn’t wield his mythical change-up even once. It’s all we heard about in spring training, and one of the reasons he looked unhittable in the very important March games. Tonight, his mix consisted entirely of his fastball, slider, and curveball. Combined, the accounted for 19 swinging strikes and 18 called strikes, though, so it’s not like he needed another great pitch. Pure speculation, but maybe he didn’t feel comfortable throwing a pitch that could potentially fall so far out of the zone without catch-all Roberto Perez behind the plate. Between that and a noticeable lack of good framing, Perez’s presence behind the plate was missed tonight.
But his bat sure wasn’t.
Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki belted a 406-foot home run to deep left that gave the Tribe the lead in the third inning. While not as dramatic as his teammate’s first home run of the season, it was indeed Plawecki’s first dong as an Indian.
The rest of the lineup — augmented by a pinch-hit appearance from Jose Ramirez — managed to only strike out 10 times, which feels like an accomplishment. Hanley Ramirez even got to show off some wheels when Max Moroff hit a triple and earned himself a lifetime supply of chicken fingers.
Oliver Perez also hit 94.7 miles per hour in his final pitch of the night, but who cares. I’ve stalled long enough for the Indians to upload Tom Hamilton’s call of the walk-off, you’re welcome.