“If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.”
Carlos Santana was made for Cleveland ever since he arrived in the MLB in 2010. He left us for one season in 2018, but he quickly returned this past offseason, giving the Indians a legitimate hitter and first baseman that they could always count on. Even when they had players who are either no longer in the MLB or back in Triple-A, Santana was always a batter in the middle of the order that could be counted on to produce.
His production at the plate has been well noticed throughout the entire season, but on Sunday, he seemed to have hit a home run that was heard around the MLB world, or at least throughout the midwest.
On June 4, the Indians trailed the Minnesota Twins by 11.5 games for first place in the American League Central division. Friday night, after beating the Twins in the first two games of the four-game series, Cleveland found themselves tied atop the division. Then, after losing Game 3 of the series on Saturday, Minnesota won their first game of the series to take the lead back. Fast forward to Sunday and the Indians held a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, looking to get back atop the Central again.
For much of the season, Brad Hand has been a dominant closer, one of the best in the league. Like many pitchers though, he struggled in Sunday’s outing, blowing a two-run lead, sending the game to extra innings. It was a make-or-break moment for the Indians. They could even lay down and allow the Twins to complete the comeback, once again taking a two-game lead in the division, just like they had prior to the series, or they could rally together and have Hand’s back, just like he has had theirs all season.
At that moment, it was Santana, the guy who Cleveland’s offense has leaned on all season that delivered…again. After Taylor Rodgers allowed the first three batters to get on base in the top of the tenth inning, Santana stepped to the plate. On a 2-1 count, he hit a grand slam, giving the Indians the lead for good and making everyone call him Slamtana. In case you want to listen to something beautiful on repeat, just listen to Tom Hamilton call that grand slam:
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) August 11, 2019
With the win, the Indians not only won took three-of-four over the Twins in Minnesota, but they are now tied atop the AL Central. When the team needed something to rally around again after their closer seemingly just didn’t have his stuff going for him on Sunday, it was Santana who stepped up when the Indians needed him the most.
It was a moment and home run that Cleveland might look back on as a moment that changed the season for the good. One that the Indians might even rally around ahead of this tough stretch of games that lie ahead.
No matter who else was in the lineup, Santana has continued to produce. In fact, he’s on pace to have the best season of his career in Year 10. The 33-year-old has a .282/.404/.522 (.926 OPS) with 25 home runs and 70 RBIs in 114 games. With such a good eye at the plate, he also has 84 walks.1 He also has a 3.4 fWAR and 139wRC+. To put that in perspective, the second-best fWAR Santana has ever had in his career is 3.3 in 2016; best wRC+ is 140 46 games during his rookie season in 2010.
When the Indians’ offense needed a boost on Sunday after Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor kept the game tied with a fantastic (and perfect) relay in the bottom of the ninth, it was Santana that stepped up, much like he has all season.
The switch hitter is and always has been a fan favorite. When he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2018, it was a gut punch to many Cleveland fans. Lucky for the fans and Santana himself, the first baseman returned to the Indians just one year later.
Now, he’s leading a surging offense that has put the rest of the MLB on notice.
Buckle up, Cleveland. This last quarter of the season is about to be one heckuva ride. Enjoy it.