CLEVELAND, Ohio — Carlos Santana stuck earlier than usual Wednesday night at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
On Tuesday night Santana hit a game-winning home run in the 10th inning. It gave him an MLB-leading 13 go-ahead homers in the ninth inning or later since he arrived in the big leagues in 2010. Wednesday night he decided to settle things a little earlier.
Santana, with two out in the sixth inning, hit a three-run homer into the right field seats as the Indians beat the Pirates, 6-1. The Indians have won five straight and 10 of their last 13 games.
Aaron Civale (3-2, 2.91) threw a five-hit complete game for the win. He struck out six and didn’t allow a run until the ninth inning. It was the first complete game in his career and the first for the Indians this season.
“He was given the opportunity to finish the game because he’d worked so hard,” said acting manager Sandy Alomar. “On top of that our bullpen needed a rest. It was a great performance. No walks, he struck out six guys and threw a lot of strikes. That’s the main thing.”
Lefty Steven Brault held the Indians scoreless for five innings on two hits. When Dovydas Neverauskas (0-3) started the sixth, the Indians went to work. Cesar Hernandez doubled to the gap in left center with one out. Jose Ramirez walked, but Francisco Lindor struck out to seemingly take the sting out of the inning. Santana, however, worked the count full before lining a pitch into the right field seats for a 3-0 lead.
It was Santana’s third homer of the season and gave him 12 RBI. Eight of those RBI have come in the last two games against the Pirates. Santana drove in five runs in Tuesday’s win.
“I’m not saying Carlos is completely streaking, but once he gets one his trend is to get a few of them,” said Alomar. “He’s feeling comfortable and being more aggressive now. He’s recognizing pitches better.”
Said Santana, “I started slow, but I’m starting to feel more comfortable at the plate.”
Domingo Santana, robbed of a hit in the fifth inning when he lined to the pitcher to start a double play, made it 6-0 with a three-run double in the eighth. Ramirez, Franmil Reyes and Tyler Naquin walked to load the bases.
Ramirez started the rally with a leadoff walk. He added to the pressure on Tyler Bashlor by stealing second and third base. Ramirez has stolen five bases without being caught.
Civale gave the Indians just what they needed with his complete game. In their last two games, starters Adam Plutko and Carlos Carrasco made early exits to tax the bullpen. Tuesday night Alomar used six relievers to cover the final 5 2/3 innings of their 6-3 win.
The deepest Civale pitched into a game before Wednesday was last year when he went 7 2/3 innings against Detroit on Sept. 12. He’s walked three batters in 33 innings this year.
“It’s nice to give the bullpen a break,” said Civale. “They’ve been busting their butts the whole season. Anytime a starter can do that, it’s a plus.”
Catcher Roberto Perez said he talked to Civale about using his fastball more against the Pirates. Civale had been leaning on his cut fastball in recent starts.
“Lately he has been going heavy cutter,” said Perez. “I think his fastball is good enough where he can set guys up to throw his cutter. He has a lot of plus pitches. He’s got a breaking ball that he hasn’t been using at all and that’s one of his best pitch. . .Tonight was a great example that his fastball is one of his best pitches and I want him to trust it.”
Civale lost his shutout on a two-out sacrifice fly by Josh Bell in the ninth inning. He entered the ninth having retired nine straight. He threw 109 pitches, 76 (70%) for strikes and didn’t walk a batter. He’s walked three batters in 34 innings this season.
According to baseballsavant.com, Civale threw 39 sliders (92.3 mph average), 26 curveballs (75 mph), 19 changeups (86.3 mph), 17 cutters (88 mph), seven sliders (84.5) and one four-seam fastball (92.5 mph). His velocity ranged from 73.9 mph to 94.3 mph.
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