Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
By Rich Mancuso
Carlos Santana can be the difference Tuesday night in Cleveland as the Indians attempt to win Game 6 of the World Series over the Chicago Cubs and bring hone their first title since 1948. The American League ballpark and the DH in tact could be the difference maker for manager Terry Francona.
Santana won’t be in left field now that Game 6 is in the American League ballpark. That designated hitter role in the World Series will never change in the most important games of the season, though this columnist always believed that the game should be played with or without the DH in the AL and NL ballparks.
Leave that debate for another time and place. The fact is, Carlos Santana, the 31-year old switch hitter from Santo Domingo, DR can be the difference maker.
He started Games 3 and 5 in left field at Wrigley Field. Saturday night in Game 4, Santana got the start at first base as the better option over Mike Napoli because of the pitching matchup on the mound. Francona said he handled the position well and the veteran with a club option for 2017 has that ability to adapt.
In Game 4, Santana had a home run and three hits. The “Friendly Confines” for Santana suited him well and Progressive Field is just as good with his ability to hit for power from the left or right side of the plate after hitting a career high 34 home runs this season.
But with four innings of experience in the outfield, and prior to the games at Wrigley, Santana handled the position with ease and Francona said it was not his decision to put him in the outfield.
“He volunteered and I was really proud of him,” said Francona. “Everything that was hit to him, he looked like a left fielder.”
The difference also are hits that Santana provides. They are timely, as was the home run was in Game 4 and the player a manager can utilize in big spots. Santana can lead off or be positioned lower in the lineup, and the results are the Cubs pitching and their attempt to pitch around him.
“We will worry about tomorrow and try and win the game,” Santana said after Game 4. He said, the energy was there and now at progressive Field there will be more. If the Cubs want this to go seven games, Jake Arrieta will have to be at his best. He knows, Carlos Santana will be in the lineup with the DH as an advantage
Francona said about being home, “I am glad we can DH somebody.” That’s the advantage for the Indians in Game 6 and Santana in that spot gives them that opportunity to celebrate Tuesday night.