Salazar Falters After Strong Start; Tigers 7, Indians 5
Craig Gifford | On 17, Apr 2014
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander has started an All-Star Game, won a Cy Young Award and MVP trophy. He is considered one of the top pitchers in the game. Indians starter Danny Salazar hopes to get to that level, eventually.
By all accounts, Salazar has the stuff and potential to be a front-of-the-line ace at some point. The-24-year-old, who has less than one year of Major League service time, went toe-to-toe for four innings with Verlander in Thursday afternoon’s game in Detroit. In fact, he outpitched the Tigers’ ace during those initial four stanzas.
However, the fifth inning showed Salazar has a ways to go before he is pitching at anything close to a Cy Young level. That is when the wheels fell off for the young right-hander. Detroit plated four runs in the frame. It was the difference in the contest as Tigers knocked off the Indians 7-5. Detroit’s win gave the teams a split in the rain-shortened, two-game series. The Tribe fell back to 7-8 and 1.5 games behind AL Central-leading Detroit, which is now 7-5.
Through the first four innings, Salazar allowed just one run to the defending division champions. He breezed through the Tigers’ lineup. Meanwhile, the Indians offense did about as well as can be expected against Verlander. The Tribe scored three runs off the former Cy Young. They worked him for four walks and six hits. Verlander left the game after five stanzas, having thrown 113 pitches. Despite the rough outing, Verlander improved 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA.
The big hits against Verlander came off the bats of David Murphy and Michael Brantley. Murphy drove home Asdrubal Cabrera with a single in the fourth, while Brantley knocked in a pair with a fifth-inning base hit.
The damage against Verlander actually could have been worse. With the bases loaded in the third inning, Jason Kipnis struck out swinging to end the threat. Upset at some of the calls from the home plate umpire, the Tribe second baseman had words for the ump and was promptly ejected from the game.
With a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the fifth inning, Salazar could not continue to hold down Detroit’s hitters. Salazar was actually his own worst enemy as he began the frame walking both Alex Avila and Alex Gonzalez. Two batters later, leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler erased Cleveland’s lead with a three-run bomb that put the Tigers up to stay. Detroit closed the scoring on Salazar with an Austin Jackson sacrifice fly.
Salazar’s final numbers were not pretty, lasting just four and two-third innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits. His ERA through three starts now stands at 7.71 with a record of 0-2.
The Indians bullpen combined to hold Detroit to just two more runs over the final three and one-third innings. C.C. Lee allowed an unearned run in the sixth inning that gave the Tigers a 6-3 cushion. It was a big tally as the Tribe got its offense going in the seventh.
In that seventh frame it was again Brantley coming through with his second home run of the season. It was a two-run shot that pulled the Tribe to within a score. However, Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan combine to stop Cleveland’s offense the rest of the way.
The Tigers added on one more insurance run in the home half of the eighth to finish the scoring.
The Tribe ended up with 10 hits. However, nine of them were for singles so the Tigers were able to limit any damage. Brantley obviously had the big day with two hits and four RBI. However, Lonnie Chisenhall continued his hot start to the season. He had four hits and is now batting an eye-popping .522.
The Indians will look to get back to .500 as they head back home for a seven-game home stand beginning Friday night against the Blue Jays. First pitch against Toronto is set for 7:05 and will see No. 1 starter Justin Masterson take the hill against Drew Hutchison.
Photo: Carlos Osorio/Getty Images