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Santana right in thick of Rangers' win over Tribe

Utility man belts 2-run homer, scores on WP in series opener
@Sullivan_Ranger
June 18, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Danny Santana was his “pick to click” before Monday night’s game against the Indians. That was a bold prediction considering Santana was starting in right field for only the second time this season. But the Rangers were in a pinch since Hunter Pence

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Danny Santana was his “pick to click” before Monday night’s game against the Indians. That was a bold prediction considering Santana was starting in right field for only the second time this season.

But the Rangers were in a pinch since Hunter Pence joined Joey Gallo on the injured list before the series opener against the Indians with a strained right groin muscle and Nomar Mazara was sidelined with soreness in the hamstring behind his right knee.

Box score

Santana delivered as he has since being called up from Triple-A Nashville on April 13. Both his speed and power came up big behind the pitching of starter Lance Lynn in a 7-2 victory at Globe Life Park.

“He did it all today,” Woodward said of Santana. “Everything was kind of on display. The only thing he didn’t do was rob a home run in right field.”

The Rangers have now won 14 of their last 21 games, while raising their home record to 25-12 for the season.

Santana hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning against Indians starter Mike Clevinger that gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead. They were up, 5-1, heading into the bottom of the sixth when Santana singled off left-handed reliever Tyler Olson and then stole second.

Olson struck out Rougned Odor and walked Ronald Guzman, bringing up Jeff Mathis. On the first pitch to Mathis, Olson threw a wild pitch past catcher Roberto Perez that went to the backstop and then took a hard carom 90 degrees and bounced toward the Rangers’ dugout. By the time Perez retrieved it, Santana had bolted around third base and came around to score.

“I was surprised,” Santana said. “But when I saw the ball running away, I just kept going and followed my route home.”

Santana’s 2-for-4 night made him 6-for-12 in his last three games, not bad considering he started in center on Saturday, shortstop on Sunday and then moved to right against the Indians. He has played in 49 games overall for the Rangers, starting at six positions while hitting .305 with a .343 on-base percentage and a .494 slugging percentage.

“Danny's been one of the biggest pieces for us,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “Even if he's just a pinch-hitter or just playing after not playing for two or three games, he's still producing and still going out there and being effective. He's a clutch guy, and I love the energy he's brought since Day One.”

Santana has been part of a strong bench that includes Pence and infielder Logan Forsythe, three guys who came to camp on Minor League contracts and now are significant contributors.

Monday was the 26th straight game Gallo has missed and the Rangers are 16-10 since he went down. They were 8-1 when Andrus went down for nine games earlier this season and Forsythe and Santana had to cover at shortstop.

“It’s pretty remarkable to see what we have done,” Woodward said. “When we are down one of the top-five hitters in baseball in Joey, Hunter Pence, one of the better hitters in baseball down, still don’t miss a beat. It shows we have tremendous depth. Maz down, we put Danny in right and he ends up winning the game for us. They just keep coming in, we have significant depth on the position player side, without a doubt. Arguably the best in baseball.”

Santana may be the biggest surprise of all. He spent most of last season at Triple-A in the Braves’ system and he hit just .179 in the 15 games he did play in the big leagues. But Santana has re-invented himself as a utility player and he has found his niche with the Rangers.

“I just thank God that I am able to be healthy, and the Rangers for giving me a chance,” Santana said. “At first it was hard being a utility player, but now that I have done it so much, it’s easier.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.