October 24, 2014

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Indians 4, Blue Jays 3: Santana helps Tribe notch first win

CLEVELAND — Wishing every day was Christmas? Not the Indians. As far as they’re concerned, every day should be Carlos Santana’s birthday.

Cleveland’s catcher has had a tendency to deliver the dramatic on his date of birth, and Sunday was no different, as Santana’s two home runs helped Cleveland celebrate its first victory of the season — a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays at Progressive Field.

“Happy birthday, Carlos Santana,” said a jubilant manager Manny Acta, whose team avoided a season-opening sweep. “I wish it was that easy for everyone.”

On April 8, it has been for Santana. Dating back to 2009, Santana has flourished on his birthday, batting .556 (10-for-18) with five home runs and 13 RBIs — two of the games coming in the minors. He went 2-for-4 Sunday, driving in three of his team’s runs with his second career multi-homer game.

“I want to, but I would be an old man, if it was my birthday every day,” joked Santana, whose explanation for producing on his birthday was, “because I am so excited for one more year in my life.”

Santana’s offense finally backed a sparkling effort from one of the Indians starters after Cleveland wasted two brilliant outings from Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez over the first two games of the series.

Right-hander Derek Lowe was the recipient of the good fortune, but he deserved as much after allowing just two unearned runs on five hits over seven innings.

“Derek Lowe was fantastic,” Acta said. “He followed in the steps of (Justin) Masterson and Ubaldo (Jimenez). When he on, it’s very hard for guys to lift the ball. They beat the ball into the ground pretty good. That’s what he does.”

Lowe didn’t allow a hit over the first three innings and owned a 4-2 lead when he departed, and unlike the two previous games, Cleveland’s bullpen picked up the starter.

After right-hander Joe Smith allowed a run in the eighth, Vinnie Pestano rode to the rescue by striking out the only two hitters he faced to end the inning with two on base.

That left it up to closer Chris Perez, who preserved the one-run advantage and notched his first save in anxious fashion after blowing a save on Opening Day.

Perez allowed a leadoff single to Eric Thames, then retired the next batter before shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera committed an error on what could have been a game-ending double play.

Perez struck out the next batter before walking Kelly Johnson to load the bases for the most dangerous hitter in the Blue Jays lineup — Jose Bautista, who popped up to Cabrera to end the game.

“Our defense tried to get us in trouble, but Chris Perez kept his composure,” Acta said. “It’s a funny game. You blow one with a three-run lead and then you save one with the bases loaded and a one-run lead by retiring one of the best hitters in the game.”

“It is what it is. It’s baseball,” Perez said of the Cabrera error. “I was able to pick him up. Cabby’s one of the best shortstops in the game. He’s not going to do that very often.”

The series ended with the Indians feeling relieved to get their first win, but knowing things could have gone better.

“They were three crazy games,” Lowe said. “Both teams could have come out of it 3-0. It was good to get one, though. You’re kind of pressing to get that first win. Once you do, you take one deep breath and kind of settle into the season.”

“It was a very hard-fought series,” Acta said. “We did a lot of things well. The whole series, we had a chance to win all three games.”

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.