CLEVELAND — Carlos Santana touched the plate and was swept up in the arms of his teammates.
This was no ordinary home run.
This one meant so much more.
Days after passing a test to become a U.S. citizen, 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 Cleveland via trade 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.
“It was a great moment,” said Santana, who spent eight seasons with Cleveland and even kept his house after leaving. “Everybody knows this is my sweet home and I’m so happy to come back. I’m happy.”
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) April 6, 2019
After his shot landed in the left-field bleachers, Santana rounded the infield and skipped down the third-base line before being mobbed by his teammates, who doused him with water. Santana then found himself in the clutches of a tight bear hug from All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez, who wrapped his arms around him and lifted him in the air.
Santana was all the way home.
“He killed that ball,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Adam Cimber (1-0) struck out two and picked up the win, and Kevin Plawecki hit his first homer for Cleveland, which has struggled to score runs in the season’s first week.
Freddy Galvis hit a two-run shot for the Blue Jays, who struck out 14 times and dropped to 0-6 and are batting .180.
“We know we’re having a bad time now hitting,” Galvis said.” The American League is like this. We have to stay off some pitches. We have to let go those off-speed pitches and try to get a fastball, but I know it’s not easy for some younger guys to do. We just have to try to do better and keep fighting.”
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.
Before the game, Francona proudly announced that Santana and Hanley Ramirez were a step closer to U.S. citizenship after passing their required tests. Francona said he doubted Santana passed, so he made him show him the test.
“He came in and he had the questions on his phone, so we looked through the first 10,” Francona said. “He got nine of them right. I got seven.”
Santana and Ramirez will be sworn in as citizens on April 19.
Thornton recorded 15 strikeouts in his first two starts, breaking Hall of Famer Roy Halladay’s team mark of 13 in 1998.
“Roy Halladay was my favorite pitcher growing up, so that’s really, really neat,” the 25-year-old Thornton said. “Just everything about the way he competed and the way he was. I really idolized him growing up. I felt like I made some pretty good pitches.”
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: Jose Ramirez was kept out of the starting lineup after fouling a pitch off his foot on Thursday. Francona said Ramirez woke up “really stiff and sore” so the team took precautionary X-rays, which were negative. Still, Francona wanted to be safe with Ramirez, who drew a pinch-hit walk in the eighth. “I’d just hate to turn a one-day thing into a four-day thing,” Francona said. … 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.