CLEVELAND, Ohio — Home field advantage in the American League Wild Card round was there for the taking Sunday and the Cleveland Indians did not blink.
Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes each drove in four runs, including Santana’s two-run double in the bottom of the seventh that put the Indians ahead for good in an 8-6 comeback win against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Progressive Field.
With the White Sox falling to the Cubs in Chicago, the Indians clinched the No. 4 seed in the AL playoffs and second place in the AL Central Divison, winning seven of their final eight games and nine out of their last 11 after an eight-game losing streak.
Sunday’s win was the Indians’ biggest comeback of the season, scoring six times after trailing by four in the sixth.
José Ramírez sparked three-run innings in both the sixth and seventh with back-to-back doubles, giving him 11 extra-base hits in his last nine games and giving the Indians a chance after falling behind thanks to a few costly defensive errors.
Santana followed Ramirez’s leadoff double in the sixth with a walk, and Reyes hit a three-run home run to center that knocked Pirates starter JT Brubaker out of the game and cut Cleveland’s deficit to a single run at 6-5. It was Reyes’ ninth home run, and first since Sept. 1. He added a sacrifice fly in the seventh to give him 34 RBI on the year.
Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar said getting contributions from Santana and particularly Reyes was big for Cleveland’s offense heading into postseason play.
“It’s almost like getting the monkey off your back when Franmil hit that home run, because he had a long drought,” Alomar said. “He was pressing a little bit. But he runs the bases hard all the time even tough he’s struggling and he’s a big guy. He brings a lot to the table, a lot of intangibles.”
Alomar will manage the Indians through the playoffs, the club announced after the game. He said securing home field advantage means a lot because the team did not to have to get on a plane and fly out after Sunday’s win.
“At the end of the day, it’s about being in the playoffs, you navigate whatever direction you have to go and deal with it,” Alomar said. “We have dealt with so much this year, but at the end of the day, we’ll navigate anywhere.”
Brad Hand entered in the eighth inning with the tying run on base and got Adam Frazier to line out to left before working a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading16th save in 16 chances. James Karinchak worked a scoreless seventh for his first big league win.
Hand said Indians relievers demonstrated a fearlessness that they’ve relied upon all season.
“We just went out there and competed,” Hand said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that are going out there and competing and we’re not scared to attack guys and I think that’s big in a bullpen. When you’re not scared and you’re on the attack and putting them on the defense, I think that’s what we’ve done well all year.”
Pittsburgh broke a 2-2 in the fifth when Jose Osuna greeted Indians reliever Cam Hill with a solo home run on the second pitch he saw. Hill then allowed a one-out double to Frazier before the Indians elected to walk hot-hitting Ke’Bryan Hayes.
Oliver Perez relieved Hill and got Colin Moran to ground to second, but Francisco Lindor’s relay throw to first skipped past Santana, allowing Frazier to score for a 4-2 Pirates advantage. The Pirates added two more in the sixth on a bases-loaded double by Frazier off Nick Wittgren.
Indians right-hander Cal Quantrill, starting a bullpen game for the second time on the homestand, allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits in three innings, striking out a pair without allowing a walk.
Quantrill surrendered an unearned run in the second when Santana and second baseman Cesar Hernandez crashed into each other in short right field, allowing a shallow pop by JT Riddle to drop for a two-base error. Riddle later scored on Osuna’s broken-bat flare to right.
Hayes collected his fifth home run in the third off Quantrill, a solo shot that put Pittsburgh in front, 2-0. That home run gave the rookie base hits in eight straight at-bats and marked the most consecutive hits for a Pirate since Andy Van Slyke in 1994.
Santana entered play Sunday 0-for-6 with a walk in the series, but he tied the score in the third inning with a two-run blast off Brubaker that carried 445 feet into the Indians bullpen with Hernandez aboard.
Santana’s eighth home run moved him into a tie with Hal Trosky for fifth on the Indians’ all-time list at 216. He was previously tied with Larry Doby for sixth. It also atoned for the earlier error that Santana mistakenly believed was charged to Hernandez.
“Santana came into the bench and said, ‘You know what, I caused Hernandez an error, I’m going to take care of it,’” Alomar said. “Next at bat he went deep and I went, ‘Wow, can he do that every time?’”
Next: The Indians open the 2020 postseason with Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series at Progressive Field against the New York Yankees. Shane Bieber (8-1, 1.63) will start for Cleveland. Game time is TBA.
New Indians face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Indians-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All MLB proceeds donated to charity.
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