NEW YORK -- There was no one else the Indians would rather have had in the batter’s box in the top of the seventh inning, with Oscar Mercado on second base and the Yankees clinging to a two-run lead.
Carlos Santana, who had been responsible for all but one of Cleveland’s runs on the day, walked up to the plate to face Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle. Santana had done his damage against New York starter James Paxton, hitting three singles in his first three at-bats -- two of which led to three runs for the Indians.
But in an easy 1-2-3 at-bat, Kahnle got Santana to foul off the first two pitches before striking him out swinging to preserve the Yankees’ lead, and the Indians went on to lose their second straight game to the Yanks on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, 6-5.
Santana has been on a prolific hot stretch in the month of August, batting .386/.514/.737 with six home runs, 18 RBIs, 16 walks and 19 runs scored. In the past week alone, he hit back-to-back game-winning homers to top the Twins and Red Sox. Though he couldn’t come up with the biggest hit of the day this time around, he still carried the Indians’ offense, as has become customary for him.
“He’s been a good hitter since Day 1,” said manager Terry Francona. “He’s hitting for power, he takes his walks, he uses the whole field -- he’s been our most consistent hitter the whole year.”
That big hit belonged to DJ LeMahieu, who seized control of the game in the bottom of the fifth. After the Indians took a first-inning 2-0 lead, the Yankees had answered back to tie the game through three. Then, in subsequent half-innings, New York and Cleveland traded two-run frames to even the matchup, all of which set the scene for LeMahieu to give the Yanks the lead once and for all, as he hit a two-out solo homer to right-center.
“We scored, we fought back -- it’s a hard thing to do,” Francona said. “We got it even, and you’re like, ‘OK.’ And then we gave up the solo homer right away.”
For Indians rookie starter Zach Plesac -- who gave up three of New York’s four -- those homers made all the difference in a close encounter.
“He only walked one, but there were some deep counts, and with their lineup, you make a mistake and they just -- they’re not trying to shoot the hole between first and second, they’re trying to hit that Modell sign [in right field]. And they do,” Francona said. “That last pitch, he threw a changeup to LeMahieu -- maybe not the best pitch, but it was really located well. And we didn’t help him.”
Right after that homer to LeMahieu, Francona pulled his rookie right-hander, who had gone 4 2/3 innings and given up five runs (four earned) on six hits. While he was partially alluding to the lack of run support Plesac received from his teammates not named Carlos Santana, Francona also brought up a pair of misplays in left field that proved costly in a one-run finish.
“I just booted it, and when I went to pick it up, I slipped,” Mercado said. “[I’ve] got to do a better job of being a little more under control and not allowing that run to score. … I’ve had my fair share of reps out there, and I feel confident and comfortable out there. It’s just one of those games where you just boot the ball.
“It was unfortunate that we weren’t able to come out with the win, but tomorrow’s another day, and that’s why we play every day.”