CLEVELAND — Carlos Santana homered with one out in the ninth inning and made a familiar trot around the bases, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night in a game that featured little hitting and 24 combined strikeouts.
Santana, who returned to the Indians via trade this season after signing with Philadelphia as a free agent last year, connected on a 1-0 pitch off Joe Biagini (0-1) to give the Indians their first walk-off win of 2019.
After his shot landed in the left-field bleachers, Santana rounded the infield and was mobbed at the plate by his teammates, including All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez who wrapped him in a tight bear hug.
Earlier this week, Santana passed a test to become a U.S. citizen.
Adam Cimber (1-0) struck out two and picked up the win, and Kevin Plawecki hit his first homer for Cleveland.
Freddy Galvis hit a two-run shot for the Blue Jays.
Toronto and Cleveland came in as two of the AL’s weakest-hitting teams and lived up to their billings. Toronto struck out 14 times while Cleveland’s hitters fanned 10.
While both teams remain offensively challenged, they got solid outings from their starters.
Making his second career start, Toronto rookie Trent Thornton allowed two runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings. Cleveland’s Shane Bieber was even better in his first start this season, giving up two hits and striking out nine in six.
Galvis gave Thornton a 2-1 lead in the fifth with his second homer, a towering, two-run shot into the seats in right. Rowdy Tellez walked leading off, and after Bieber struck out Brandon Drury, Galvis connected on a 1-0 pitch to give the Blue Jays some much-needed life.
But Toronto’s lead was short-lived as the Indians tied it in their half on Max Moroff’s two-out RBI double.
Plawecki, who came to Cleveland in a January trade from the New York Mets, connected in the third inning to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. Plawecki drove a 3-2 pitch from Thornton into the left-field bleachers for only the club’s third homer this season.
Blue Jays: 1B Justin Smoak (sore neck) was a late scratch from the lineup for the second straight day. … RHP Clay Buchholz (right elbow strain) will throw 80 pitches Sunday for Triple-A Buffalo. He has been on the injured list since March 25, but could be activated to start next weekend. “It was his idea to do it in Buffalo,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “The weather is going to be nice, so why not?”
Indians: Francona said Ramirez woke up “really stiff and sore.” The team took precautionary X-rays, which were negative. Still, Francona wanted to be safe with Ramirez, who is batting only .136 (6 of 22) with one extra-base hit. “I’d just hate to turn a one-day thing into a four-day thing,” Francona said. “But I think he’s going to be fine.” Ramirez didn’t show any troubling signs when he strutted into the Indians clubhouse before the game. … OF Carlos Gonzalez is moving closer to joining the Indians. He made a successful debut in Columbus on Thursday, getting two hits and an RBI. “We’ve got to do things right, even when it’s not convenient,” Francona said. “You’ve got to treat these guys and let them get not only their bats in shape, but their bodies used to what it takes to play.”
Toronto LHP Thomas Pannone makes his first start of the season, facing Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco, who has allowed 19 runs in 20 innings during four starts against the Blue Jays at Progressive Field.