In 0-2 hole, Santana keeps Tribe in 1st

Vet swats slider out to snap club's 3-game slide

In 0-2 hole, Santana keeps Tribe in 1st

CLEVELAND -- Halfway to home, Carlos Santana flung his helmet into the dark night sky. Yan Gomes splashed him with water a few feet from the plate. Just as Santana's feet embraced home plate, he was engulfed by his Tribe teammates.

Santana's celebratory greeting came moments after he launched an 0-2 slider from Chicago reliever Nate Jones into the center-field bleachers in the bottom of the ninth. His leadoff shot gave the Indians a 3-2 victory over the White Sox on Friday night. It marked the team's third walk-off victory this season.

"He was throwing his slider," Santana said. "I tried to find the fastball, but he threw a slider again and I tried to hit it down the middle with good contact. He threw a slider and I got a home run."

It was the fifth time in his career that Santana was the walk-off hero. Including his latest blast, Santana has homered in four of those occasions. His last walk-off homer came July 31, 2013, on a solo shot in the 10th against the White Sox.

"You see what happens," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You make a mistake on the road and you can lose. Fortunately, they did, because they had Santana down 0-2. Man, he took a nice swing."

Santana's heroics couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Cleveland was scuffling after getting swept in three games at Kansas City. The American League Central lead that once grew as high as 3 1/2 games had dwindled to a half-game. The Royals beat the Tigers, 10-3, on Friday night to remain a half-game back of the Tribe.

For a moment, it appeared the Tribe's woes were going to continue. An RBI double by Jason Kipnis in the eighth gave Cleveland a one-run lead heading into the ninth. But Cody Allen blew just his second save, surrendering consecutive doubles to the bottom of the order. Allen is 13-of-15 in save chances.

"You can't expect him to close it down every single time," Kipnis said. "He's a good closer. We give him a little too much credit sometimes because we just expect him to shut it down all the time."

Allen was able to keep it tied, which turned out to be crucial. Santana fell into an early hole on two consecutive sliders. He sat on the third consecutive slider and blasted it.

However, several moments after his latest triumph, Santana was focused on the task ahead.

"I was so happy," Santana said. "But tomorrow is a new game and we'll try to win."

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.