All-Star closer Brad Hand (6-3, 2.74) got the win after suffering his second blown save in as many chances when he walked Mookie Betts and gave up a two-out RBI double to Xander Bogaerts that just cleared a leaping Tyler Naquin in the top of the inning. It was Hand’s fourth blown save in 33 chances.
Santana, who bailed out Hand with a grand slam in the 10th inning Sunday in Minnesota, delivered his second walk-off hit of the season and first since a homer April 5 against Toronto’s Joe Biagini. It’s the Tribe’s sixth walk-off win of the year.
“It’s exciting, I’m excited," Santana said. "We’re fighting for the division and every game is really important for the team.”
Manager Terry Francona said the Indians have come to rely on Santana’s bat in clutch situations all year.
“He has come up so big for us and has been so consistent,” Francona said. "Right when you get punched in the stomach he takes a swing like that. I mean, that was a gorgeous swing. I know the last two days, but he’s been doing it all year.”
Cleveland won for the third time in four meetings with Boston and improved to 16-9 against American League East Division teams. The Indians moved into sole possession of first place in the AL Central for the first time since April 20. They lead idle Minnesota by a half-game.
After back-to-back singles by Santana and Franmil Reyes in the third, Jose Ramirez launched a 2-2 curveball from Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez 425 feet to the home run porch in left. Ramirez’s 17th home run snapped an 0-for-11 skid and gave the Indians a 5-1 advantage.
Ramirez added a leadoff double in the seventh and has 11 extra-base hits in August and 28 since the start of July, breaking a tie with Boston’s Rafael Devers for the most in baseball. The Indians are 37-5 when he drives in at least one run.
Rookie right-hander Zach Plesac struck out a pair of Boston hitters and walked a pair allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings. He threw 24 pitches in the fourth inning and worked into deep counts throughout the night. Francona said early on, it seemed like the Red Sox barreled up everything Plesac was throwing.
“It was the first time we’ve seen him kinda run away from his fastball,” Francona said. "That’s not him, and he knew it, too. It’s not fair to think that a kid with that amount of (service) time is going to be perfect every time out, but he still competed.”
Hunter Wood relieved Plesac after the rookie tossed 78 pitches through the fifth. Wood exited the game with two out in the sixth with a bruised right calf after he was hit by a smash up the middle by Mitch Moreland. Tyler Clippard entered and struck out Brock Holt to avoid damage.
Plesac helped himself with a nice defensive play in the fourth after serving up a solo home run to J.D. Martinez and walking Andrew Benintendi. Catcher Christian Vazquez sent a one-hopper back to the mound and Plesac set his feet before starting a double play by throwing to Francisco Lindor at second, who then relayed to Santana for the second out.
But Moreland singled and moved to second on a wild pitch before scoring on Holt’s two-out RBI double that trimmed Cleveland’s lead to 5-3. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s leadoff solo homer in the seventh off Clippard pulled the Red Sox within one run.
Reyes put the Indians in front 2-0 in the first with a two-run blast to center, his 28th and first since joining the Tribe from San Diego Aug. 1. It was just his fourth home run of the year off a left-handed pitcher.
Boston answered with a run in the second when Benintendi doubled off the wall in left and the ricochet bounced over Greg Allen’s head, allowing Martinez to score all the way from first.
Allen redeemed himself in the fifth when Xander Bogaerts lined a Plesac pitch off the wall and tried to stretch the hit into a double. Allen fielded the ball on one hop and threw a strike to Jason Kipnis at second to get Bogaerts. Plesac then retired Martinez on a grounder to second that ended the inning.
Indians manager Terry Francona (617-472) tied Hall of Famer Tris Speaker for No. 3 on the Indians’ all-time managerial wins list. Only Mike Hargrove (721) and Lou Boudreau (728) have more victories in franchise history.
The series continues Tuesday as right-hander Mike Clevinger (7-2, 3.02) takes the mound against Red Sox lefty Chris Sale (6-11, 4.41). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM.
Clevinger has won six consecutive decisions over seven starts dating back to July 3. He is 0-1 with a 8.03 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox. Sale enters the game with 206 strikeouts and has eclipsed the 200-strikeout mark in seven straight seasons. He is 5-8 with a 4.80 ERA in 30 career appearances against Cleveland.