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Santana betlts a walk-off homer for the win

CLEVELAND -- With his arcing liner threatening to breach the fence in right, Carlos Santana raced out of the batter's box at Progressive Field, hoping his hit would go for four bases, not two. As it sailed into a frantic crowd, Santana hoisted an arm in satisfaction and carried on with his home-run trot.

The rest of the Indians, meanwhile, swarmed to home plate and an electrified crowd roared its approval. Santana neared the celebration and tipped it off by flipping his batting helmet into the air and skipping toward the throng.

While water sprayed and men bounced, the Indians savored their Major League-leading fifth walk-off home run and third in less than a week. Thanks to Cleveland's latest hero, Santana, the Indians beat the White Sox, 6-5, in 10 innings on Wednesday, extending their best winning streak of the season to seven games.

"I'm very happy," Santana said afterward. "I love it. I love the situation."

At 59-48, the Indians are 11 games above .500 for the first time since June 5, 2011. They've won 12 of their last 16 and 14 of their last 20. The Tribe is just one victory at Progressive Field away from matching its home win total from all of last season, when the club posted a 37-44 mark in its own yard.

Though the Indians remained 2 1/2 games behind Detroit in the American League Central, their win on Wednesday -- combined with Baltimore's loss -- gave them possession of the second Wild Card slot in the AL.

Yes, the Indians are right where they need to be, and that has largely been a result of the remarkable becoming commonplace at Progressive Field. In the current homestand alone, the Indians have won on walk-off home runs by Ryan Raburn, Jason Giambi and Santana. Cleveland has nine walk-off wins this season and is 7-1 in extra innings.

"It never gets old," said Michael Bourn, who went 1-for-3 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. "It's always fun. We'd rather do it easier, but it's not going to always be that way."

Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes are the other two players to hit walk-off home runs for Cleveland this season. Along with Kipnis, Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds have spurred the Tribe to walk-off wins with plays that were confined to the field.

"We're not really worried about who the hero is," Bourn said. "We're worried about just trying to win the game."

What made Santana's homer on Wednesday all the more enjoyable for Cleveland was the sequence of events that preceded it. After the White Sox grabbed a late lead with Jeff Keppinger's two-out, two-run single off Cody Allen in the top of the ninth inning, the Indians came screaming back in the bottom of the frame. Michael Brantley led off with a double, and the sacks were full after Giambi was hit by a pitch and Stubbs reached on a bunt single.

A pair of deep sacrifice flies by Bourn and Kipnis knotted things up.

"It's that never-say-die mentality," Allen said. "They picked me up. They picked me up big time tonight, and we pulled out a crazy win."

The scene was set for Santana, who led off the bottom of the 10th against Chicago reliever Dylan Axelrod. In a 3-1 count, Santana let a fastball from Axelrod go by without an attempt. Thinking he had drawn a walk, Santana started to toss his bat and trot to first base, but he had to stop when home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn called a strike.

All of Cleveland wound up thrilled he did.

"It's kind of boring, don't you think?" Mike Aviles joked. "The thing about it, which I enjoy, is the fact that every night it's somebody different. That shows you the kind of chemistry we have. We're always rooting for each other. It shows you the type of depth we possess right now. It's a fun way to win every night. Something different."

Aviles howled and pounded on Santana's back during the frenzy at home.

"It's kind of fun hitting somebody with some water in the face when they're running to the plate," he said.

The two teams entered the ninth inning in a deadlock after Cleveland built a three-run lead over five innings that Chicago equalized in the sixth.

In a career-high 8 2/3 innings, Tribe starter Corey Kluber was charged with eight hits and four runs. He also racked up six strikeouts without issuing a walk. Conor Gillaspie, who scored the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, reached on the hit that made Cleveland manager Terry Francona replace Kluber with Allen.

"He was so good," the skipper said of the starter. "He just had the one inning where they bunched together a couple hits, and they weren't all hard hit. Just, they bunched them together. I thought that was maybe the one inning he didn't come in enough, but still, it's easy to nitpick. He was very efficient."

An engaged crowd at Progressive Field thanked Kluber for his effort as he walked off the field. The paid attendance of 22,258 was actually quite larger, as fans who had tickets to the rain-delayed May 31 game that lasted until about 3 a.m. were able to exchange their stubs for tickets to Wednesday's game or the Sept. 6 contest against the Mets.

"They came out to see us tonight," Bourn said. "We're happy they came out to see us. I hope they keep coming to see us. We like that energy behind us, man. It helps us out and it gets us going."

With all the excitement they are providing, Santana and the Indians are certainly making their best case.

As Francona said after Wednesday's win, "It's better than losing."

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