August 20, 2014

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Santana homer in 10th gives Indians ninth walk-off win of the season

CLEVELAND — “Team Resiliency” rose to the occasion once again.

The Indians, who have shown a tendency for late-game heroics this season, produced more Wednesday night at Progressive Field, chasing down the White Sox to win 6-5 in 10 innings.

Cleveland won in walk-off fashion for the second time in the four-game series against Chicago, with Carlos Santana lining a solo home run to right field to start the 10th on a 3-2 pitch from reliever Dylan Axelrod. The Indians go for the sweep today.

Cleveland led for much of the game before the White Sox tied it then took the lead in the ninth, only to have the Indians knot it back up in the bottom of the inning.

“I always think we have a chance,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona, whose club improved to 7-1 in extra innings with their seventh straight win and season-high 10th straight at home. “Winning and the way you’re winning should breed confidence. It doesn’t hurt.”

It was the ninth walk-off win of the season for the Indians, who have won in that fashion three times since Friday, with the victory improving them to 11 games over .500. They gained no ground on the first-place Tigers, who still lead the Central Division by 2½ games over Cleveland.

The Indians lead the majors with five walk-off homers, hitting 69 walk-off homers since Jacobs/Progressive Field opened in 1994 — the most in the majors over that span.

The Indians appeared to be en route to a smoother victory ride, jumping out to a 3-0 lead on the White Sox and starter Jose Quintana through five innings. Cleveland starter Corey Kluber was in control up to that point, shutting out the White Sox on four hits. But Chicago finally got to Kluber in the sixth, stringing together three consecutive RBI hits to tie the game.

Kluber wound up lasting a career-high 8⅔ innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, while striking out six. He was on the hook for the loss before the Indians’ rally.

“He was so good, Francona said. “He had the one inning where they bunched some hits together, but he was very efficient.”

Kluber credited Chicago hitters for being fortunate in the sixth, not so much effective.

“For the most part, they hit it soft where we weren’t,” he said.

Chicago forged ahead with two runs off reliever Cody Allen, who replaced Kluber in the
ninth and allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base before surrendering a two-run single to pinch hitter Jeff Keppinger.

Rather than hang their heads, the Indians went back to work, scoring twice to tie the game on a pair of sacrifice flies from Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis.

“All the time, we played hard,” Santana said. “When they tied the game (in the sixth), I didn’t see any player with their head down.”

Closer Chris Perez pitched a scoreless 10th inning to pave the way for Santana’s big hit. Santana started towards first base when he thought he walked on a 3-1 pitch from Axelrod, then returned to the batter’s box and launched the game-winning homer.

“It’s a ball but (umpire D.J. Reyburn) called it a strike, and the next pitch I hit a home run,” Santana said. “All the time I was looking for a fastball. He made a good pitch, down and in. I made good contact. I love that situation.”

If the season ended today, the Indians would be a playoff qualifier. They forged ahead of Baltimore by a half game in the race for the second of the two wild-card berths.

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