Superb Nights from Salazar and Ramirez Lead Tribe to Victory; Indians 7, Royals 1
Bob Toth | On 06, May 2016
Nearly eight scoreless innings from Danny Salazar and a huge day at the plate from Jose Ramirez helped the Cleveland Indians to an easy 7-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals from Progressive Field on Friday night.
The Indians played with the lead again after loading the bases in the first. After Carlos Santana popped up to shortstop, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor each singled to center off of Royals starter Yordano Ventura. A walk to Michael Brantley loaded the bases and Mike Napoli grounded to third. The ball ricocheted to short, where Alcides Escobar fielded the ball and retired Napoli at first, but Kipnis scored to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. A walk to Yan Gomes loaded the bases, but Lonnie Chisenhall grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the threat.
Indians starter Salazar (3-2) breezed through the Royals lineup the first time through, striking out three and erasing a Lorenzo Cain single on a pickoff at first.
Cleveland missed a scoring opportunity in the second after getting two on with one out before a Kipnis double play grounder. But another opportunity presented itself in the third and the Indians cashed in. Lindor singled to center for the second straight at bat and Brantley again drew a walk before Napoli singled home Lindor with a shot to center. Gomes lined a long fielder’s choice to right, as the ball fell in front of the right fielder Jarrod Dyson, who was able to fire to second to force out Napoli, who had to hold to make sure the ball was not caught. Chisenhall walked to load the bases and Rajai Davis lined a first-pitch screamer towards Ventura, who made the catch in self-defense for the second out. Nearly out of the jam with minimal damage, Ramirez doubled deep to left-center to clear the bases and give Cleveland a commanding 5-0 lead.
The Indians tacked on two more in the bottom of the fifth against left-handed reliever Brian Flynn, who took over for Ventura on the mound to start the inning. Napoli singled to left and moved to second with one out on a walk from Chisenhall. Davis grounded out to short to move up both runners and, with two outs, Ramirez doubled to left again, knocking in both runners to extend the Indians lead to 7-0.
Alex Gordon delivered a one-out RBI-single to left in the ninth off of Dan Otero to scratch across the Royals only run on the night. Eric Hosmer reached on an error at second by Kipnis and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Gordon’s single to left made it 7-1, but the Royals kept going to make the inning much more challenging for Otero. Salvador Perez grounded to short, where Gordon was forced out but the return throw to first was too late. Omar Infante reached on an infield single to short, just beating the throw of Lindor. Christian Colon got an infield single of his own to second to load the bases before Otero got Dyson to ground into a fielder’s choice with a force at second to finally end the night.
The second place Indians (14-12) have now won four straight games and continue to play better baseball against American League Central foes. The Royals (14-14) have dropped nine of their last 12 games and have fallen to the .500 mark for the first time since the second game of the season.
SALAZAR SUPER AGAIN
The Tribe’s right-hander was solid once again in improving to 3-2 on the year and lowering his ERA to 1.91. He pitched seven and two-thirds innings and again limited runners on the bases, giving up just four hits and a walk. Behind 106 pitches and 74 strikes, he struck out nine Royals hitters.
“I thought tonight was his best start. He had good stuff from start to finish. He had all his pitches and was really letting it go. Reached back for more when he needed it. That was an impressive start,” said Indians manager Terry Francona in his postgame press conference. “They’re a very aggressive first ball hitting team. He could have stayed out there a little more, I just didn’t think it made sense to do that. I think his last four starts he’s been over 100. There’s going to be a time when we need to let him go and hopefully we’ll be able to. That was really impressive.”
The four hits he allowed on the night were a season-high.
“He was feeling really good from the get-go,” said pitching coach Mickey Callaway after the game. “Great warm up to go out into the game and he really focused on the warm ups in between innings and got himself locked in. He did a great job, throwing the ball over the plate, pounding the zone, and mixing his pitches up really well.”
VENTURA KNOCKED OUT EARLY
Ventura (2-2) struggled mightily with his command, leading to a high pitch count and a quick exit after four innings. He allowed five runs on six hits, walked five, and struck out three. Despite good career numbers both at Progressive Field and against the Indians as a whole, Friday night was not in the cards for the Royals right-hander.
“Coming into the game, he had some walks,” said Francona. “But when you throw like he does, it’s one thing to say ‘be patient’, it’s another thing to lay off pitches. Like Gomer said, ‘I walked but I didn’t see a strike’ but he saw seven pitches because it’s just hard to lay off. He’s got good stuff and it’s moving. I thought we really made him work hard and I thought we kinda deserved when Jose got that hit because Rajai hit that ball about as hard as you can.”
GETTING THE LEAD THE KEY
The key for the Indians this season has been playing with a lead. Cleveland is now 12-4 this season when scoring first. They are just 2-8 when playing from behind.
“That’s the reason our guys are throwing the ball well now, they’re scoring early and our defense has been tremendous,” said Callaway. “The plays that our infielders and outfielders are making for these guys are unbelievable. That takes so much pressure off of a pitcher, he can go out there, relax, throw the ball over the plate, and not have to worry about one or two runs.”
RAMIREZ A FORCE
The number nine hitter Ramirez was 3-for-3 on the night and walked, reaching base successfully in all four at bats. He was the ignitor in the Indians lineup, driving in five runs with two huge doubles. His five RBI on the night were a new career high. He now leads the Indians with a .324 batting average on the season.
“You want to find places for him to play so he can help you win,” said Francona. “He’s done a really good job of staying ready. He’s worked hard on his right-handed swing, where that’s not an issue ever. They can turn him around and it’s okay. And he can play everywhere.”
LINDOR WITH THREE MORE
Lindor had a very quiet 3-for-4 at the plate with one run scored, boosting his batting average to .317 and his on-base percentage to .381, a club-high. He also made several more incredible plays in the field, including a diving stop up the middle.
“He has the ability to do that all the time,” said Francona. “He also has the ability to lay back on a ball. That’s the youth, but there’s so much more to like. He’s gonna make plays like that because he’s really athletic, he has good hands, he has a good arm, and he’s into the game.”
The Indians improved to 9-3 against the AL Central this season. They are 6-0 against the Tigers, 1-0 against the Royals, 1-1 against the White Sox, and 1-2 against the Twins.
The Indians drew seven walks on the night, while the Royals had just one free pass off of Cleveland pitching.
34 IN THE FIRST
For the second consecutive night, the Indians worked an opposing starter for 34 pitches in the first inning. Ventura was the victim on Friday night, while Detroit’s Michael Fulmer suffered the same fate the day before.
PEREZ SURGERY COMPLETED
Backup Tribe catcher Roberto Perez had his surgery on his fractured right thumb on Friday. It was reported that he had an avulsion fracture in the right thumb, an injury where the ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb ripped away from the bone, breaking a piece of the bone off with it. The surgical procedure required the suturing of the UCL to the bone. He is expected to be sidelined for the next two to three months.
Right-hander Cody Anderson (0-1, 7.65 ERA) will make his return from the Columbus Clippers roster officially on Saturday to take the mound for Francona and the Tribe. The Indians will need to make a difficult roster decision prior to the game in order to add Anderson to the 25-man roster. Free agent addition Ian Kennedy (3-2, 2.61) will toe the rubber for Ned Yost and the Royals. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak