April 23, 2014

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Indians 7, Nationals 1: Carmona, Santana shine in victory

CLEVELAND – If they were handing out Academy Awards at Progressive Field on Saturday night, Fausto Carmona would have won the Oscar for best performance in a lead role, while Carlos Santana would have taken home the trophy for best supporting actor.

Both players loomed large in a 7-1 victory over the Nationals that extended the Indians’ winning streak to a season-high four games, the home team winning for the sixth time in nine games.

Carmona pitched his second complete game of the season, limiting Washington to just a run on three hits, while striking out seven without a walk. Santana, who made his big league debut Friday, got his first career hit, RBI and home run.

It all added up to an eventful and entertaining night for the Indians and the 19,484 fans in attendance.

“It was our most dominating performance so far from a pitching standpoint,” said manager Manny Acta of Carmona’s scintillating start. “He was just flat-out dominant. It was just a terrific performance.

“Carlos Santana gave us a bit of a glimpse of what he can do with his bat. It was good to see in just his second game.”

In a groove like he hasn’t been in all season, Carmona faced one batter over the minimum, allowing a pair of singles before Ryan Zimmerman ruined the shut out with a solo homer to lead off the eighth inning.

“I kept the ball down and threw the first pitch for strikes and got ground balls,” said Carmona, who retired 14 of the first 15 hitters he faced, striking out the final four batters over the span. “I threw every pitch and I controlled it and threw it for a strike.”

After reaching on an error in his first at-bat in the opening inning, Santana, who hit third in the lineup, took care of a pair of firsts with one swing, doubling home two runs in the second. His first homer arrived in his next at-bat, Santana clouting a towering solo shot to right field off Nationals starter and former Cleveland minor leaguer J.D. Martin to put the Indians in front 6-0.

Both balls were retrieved for Santana, who said he planned on giving them to his mother Nuris Amador.

“It feels good what I was able to do today,” Santana said through an interpreter. “I didn’t do what I was expected to do (Friday in an 0-for-3 effort). I was able to help the team win and I felt good out there (tonight).”

When he returned to the dugout after the homer, his teammates gave the rookie the traditional silent treatment, failing to congratulate him.

“It’s part of the game. I’ve seen it before,” Santana said. “It gives me the motivation to keeping doing what I did.”

Santana’s contributions weren’t limited to his offensive production. According to Acta, Santana called the entire game for Carmona, who also tipped his hat to the young catcher in the department.

“The whole game, I never shook off a sign,” said Carmona, who snapped a four-game losing streak by winning for the first time since May 12 against the Royals. “Everything he said, I threw.”

“I had a good discussion with (Carmona) before the game,” Santana said. “We had a good game plan and it worked out pretty well.”

Nearly everything worked out well for the Indians, who have resembled a different team as of late.

Cleveland, which ranks near the bottom of the American League in the homer category, went deep for the fifth time in six games – Russell Branyan matching Santana’s long ball with a solo shot in the eighth inning.

The Indians’ scuffling offense has produced 33 runs over the last four games.

“I think we were due for that, weren’t we?” Acta said.

Of the nine players in the Cleveland batting order, six of them collected at least one hit, with Santana, Branyan and Shin-Soo Choo producing multi-hit performances.

The only negative on the night was an injury to center fielder Trevor Crowe.

Crowe fouled a pitch off his right knee in the second inning but remained in the game for another at-bat before being lifted for pinch hitter Shelley Duncan in the seventh. He is listed as day-to-day.

It is a blow to the Indians, who don’t have a legitimate center fielder or leadoff hitter on the roster to replace Crowe and might have to make a move, possibly bringing back Michael Brantley from Triple-A Columbus.

Both teams wore throwback uniforms, the Indians sporting 1920 garb to commemorate their first World Series title. The Nationals paid tribute to the 1924 world champion Washington Senators.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.