CLEVELAND -- Carlos Santana has always said his approach to baseball comes down to a two-word phrase: Play happy. When he was caught on camera dancing in the dugout with Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis on Wednesday night, that mantra was on full display.
"We try to do something fun," Santana said after the 7-6 victory over the Red Sox at Progressive Field. "Me and Kipnis, we've played for the last four or five years, so he knows me and I know him. We have fun in this game. I try to enjoy it."
Over the offseason, Cleveland signed veteran first baseman Mike Napoli to a one-year contract to provide some right-handed power in the heart of the lineup. With him in the cleanup spot, Santana could slide to five-hole, taking a little bit of pressure off the switch-hitter. Both see a lot of pitches, grinding out at-bats in a way that can create a blend of patience and power.
Napoli and Santana put their potential as a middle-order duo on display in Cleveland's first win of the season, launching a pair of home runs, collecting four RBIs and drawing one walk each for good measure. Santana's three-run shot to center in the first inning staked the Tribe to an early 4-0 lead. Napoli's solo blast off Junichi Tazawa broke a tie and gave the Indians a 7-6 advantage in the seventh.
According to Statcast™, Santana's homer to the center-field bullpens had an exit velocity of 102.6 mph and traveled a projected 418 feet. Napoli one-upped him on his long ball that clanked into the left-field bleachers. His rocketed off the bat at 105.5 mph and sailed a projected 423 feet.
"Those are two big bats," rookie Tyler Naquin said. "Napoli's been doing it for a long time. He's hit a lot of home runs. Santana has been doing it for a while as well, with a lot of home runs. Those guys are going to do damage with their bats and also take a lot of walks. When they're swinging it, they don't get cheated out there."
Manager Terry Francona likes the potential of having Napoli and Santana together in the middle of the order.
"The idea is to have everybody be dangerous," Francona said. "Nap certainly has a pretty good feel for the strike zone, too. If a guy is getting on base in front of Carlos, that switch-hitter sandwiched in-between some of the righties, yeah, I think that [can] be great."
Napoli, who suited up for the Red Sox for parts of the past three seasons, got a bit of redemption with his homer.
In Tuesday's season-opening loss, Napoli fought through an 11-pitch battle with Boston ace David Price in the fourth inning, but Napoli struck out looking on a close call. The first baseman struck out three times on the night. Needless to say, Napoli was thrilled to get back on track one night later.
"I've been playing for a while, so I know how things go," Napoli said. "I had a rough day, but today was a new day and I got in the cage and worked on what I had to do, and it worked out today."
Santana -- who went 2-for-3 with a double, walk, home run and three RBIs -- said it can be beneficial for him to have Napoli seeing so many pitches ahead of him in the order.
"It's good. Napoli is kind of like me," Santana said. "Power hitting and seeing a lot of pitches, trying to swing at good pitches. He's helped me."
Maybe it will help Santana avoid some of the slow offensive starts of the past.
While that remains to be seen, Santana plans on taking his usual approach.
"I try to play happy," he said. "Play hard every day, and try to help my team."