Santana rouses home fans, falls to Derby champ

Tribe All-Star 'emotional' amid park support, which included Carrasco

July 9th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- 's dream of participating in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby came true, but it was short-lived.

The 33-year-old slugger launched 13 homers in the first round at Progressive Field on Monday night, coming one foot short of recording two 440-foot blasts that would’ve secured a 30-second bonus round. He was knocked out by the Home Run Derby champion, Pete Alonso, who hit his 14th homer with seconds left in regulation.

“It was great,” Santana said. “It's a great experience for me, especially at home. It's something I'll never forget in my life or my career.”

Santana was in a slow rhythm, as his pitcher, Indians assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, set a deliberate pace. Although he tied Matt Chapman of the A's for the least amount of homers hit in the first round, the Cleveland crowd of 36,119 was doing its best to back its first baseman.

“It's tough,” Santana said of trying to bounce back from his slow start. “I have all the fans from Cleveland, they see me, they want more, the best. It's a great experience, and I'm so happy for that.”

Alonso watched the first pitch he was thrown, and the crowd erupted in cheers. The Mets’ first baseman initially couldn’t get rolling, and fans roared for each ball that stayed inside of the park and booed for each one that flew over the fence. Despite the crowd’s best efforts, Alonso was able to secure the final blast without needing to use the 30 seconds of bonus time he was able to acquire.

“It's emotional,” Santana said of the support the fans gave him. “I was a little bit nervous. It's a great show. The fans, they support me, and I'm very happy for that.”

Santana averaged 402 feet on his 13 homers, and his longest traveled 463 feet. While he didn’t become the first Indians player to bring home the Derby crown, Santana was able to receive the warm reception he has envisioned for the past month in front of his home fans.

“I got goosebumps,” teammate said of the ovation Santana received. “You got the hometown hero and one of the more beloved players in Cleveland. It’s special.”

As he stood on deck waiting for his turn to step into the batter’s box, the Indians played a highlight reel of their first baseman smashing homers. When the video ended, the screen showed his teammate, , who is currently on the injured list as he receives treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia, cheering him on from the stands.

“No. I didn't know,” Santana said, when asked if he knew Carrasco was going to be in attendance. “I know he supports me. He's appreciated. He supports me, and Cookie, we have a great relationship, and I thank him for supporting me.”

Carrasco was shown from behind, standing at his seat, with an Indians shirt that read, “Santana, Lindor, Bieber, Hand,” supporting all four of the Indians’ All-Stars.

“It was pretty cool,” Lindor said. “Much respect to him. He came out, cheered his teammates. That says a lot about him. We all love him and miss him.”

After Santana’s four minutes in the spotlight were up, he went down to the clubhouse, changed out of his Indians uniform and into his American League jersey. He came back and finished the night as Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s biggest fan from the sideline.

The Blue Jays' rookie phenom hit a Derby record 29 home runs in each of the first two rounds -- ultimately outlasting Joc Pederson of the Dodgers, 40-39, in a historic second round that required three tiebreakers. Guerrero fell to Alonso in the finals, 23-22.

“He's a monster,” Santana said. “He's 20 years old. I don’t think he was nervous or putting too much pressure [on himself]. He's a great talent. He has great power. So he's doing a good job. He's fighting all the competition. And I'm so happy for him.”