CLEVELAND -- The Indians had their window of opportunity, but it was only open a crack. A number of factors were stacked against Cleveland when Carlos Santana settled into his stance with the bases loaded in the third inning of Friday night's 12-1 win over the White Sox.
First and foremost, White Sox left-hander Chris Sale was on the mound. On top of that, two were out, Santana has struggled in terms of power production from the right side this year and the Indians' woes with the bases loaded have been well-documented.
"You get a chance against him, you better take advantage of it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Because, a lot of times, that's the only one you get."
Cleveland took complete advantage and kept its foot on the gas all night.
Santana crushed an 0-1 pitch from Sale over the wall in left field and to the bleacher seats for a grand slam that punctuated a six-run outburst in the third inning -- all of them unearned after a Chicago error. The blast was Santana's 16th of the year and marked the first of four bases-loaded hits on the evening for Cleveland, which entered Friday ranked last in the Majors in hits (19) and batting average (.183) with the bags full.
The Indians also received bases-loaded hits from Mike Aviles, Michael Brantley and Chris Johnson as part of a five-run eighth inning that put the game out of reach for the White Sox. Within that frame, Lonnie Chisenhall also drew a bases-loaded walk, giving Cleveland a Major League-leading 19 walks with the bags full this season.
The Indians scored 9.6 percent of their season total in runs (9-of-94) and produced 17.4 percent of their season total in hits (4-of-23) with the bases loaded in the win over the White Sox.
Francona has had a hard time figuring out the disparity between his team's patience and production with the bases full this year.
"I don't know," Francona said. "I think at the end of the year I'll try to maybe go back and look a little bit more so I can answer it. I think a lot of it was early more than now. Again, I'll save the answer. I hope there's a real nice hot streak with the bases loaded the last couple of weeks."
The victory was the 15th in the past 22 games for the Indians (73-73), who now sit two games back of the Astros (77-71) in the loss column in the race for the American League's second Wild Card spot. With Houston's loss to Oakland on Friday night, the Tribe trails the Astros (77-71) by three games in the standings.
Cleveland's chance against Sale arrived in the third inning, when White Sox second baseman Carlos Sanchez misplayed a grounder off the bat of Jose Ramirez for an error. Had that been converted into an out, Sale could have escaped the inning unscathed with his subsequent strikeout against rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor.
With two outs, though, Aviles and Brantley each drove in a run with a single and Sale walked Ryan Raburn to load the bases for Santana.
"I know Sale has good stuff," Santana said. "He's the best lefty in the league."
That made Santana's slam to the bleachers -- only his second homer this year as a right-handed hitter -- all the more important.
From there, the Indians piled it on and picked up a game in the Wild Card race.
"Sale is always a Cy Young candidate every season," Aviles said. "Any time he gives you an extra out, you want to take advantage. Luckily tonight, we were able to take advantage with some big hits. That slam by 'Los, it stung pretty good."