Salazar Outstanding as Indians Inch Closer to First Place; Indians 6, Royals 1
Bob Toth | On 03, Jun 2016
Danny Salazar made arguably his best start of the year, throwing a season-high eight innings of one-run ball as the Indians thumped the Kansas City Royals by a 6-1 count in front of a large crowd in Cleveland on Friday night.
Salazar held the Royals at bay and did not let some wildness cost him. He limited Kansas City to just three hits and his Tribe teammates plated four early runs to pace him on the mound.
Cleveland jumped out on top in the second inning after leaving a pair stranded in the first after back-to-back leadoff walks against Edinson Volquez. With two down in the second, Yan Gomes drove the second pitch of his at bat to the bleachers in left to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
Just like Thursday night, the Royals responded to an early Indians run as Gomes’s counterpart, Drew Butera, took Salazar’s 1-0 pitch and parked it into the bleachers to lead off the third with a game-tying shot. It was Butera’s second homer in as many days.
The Indians countered with a big inning of their own in response and opened up the game in the bottom half of the third. After an out by Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis doubled to center, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a single to center by Francisco Lindor. Mike Napoli doubled home Lindor with a shot to left and moved to third on a single from Jose Ramirez. He would score on a wild pitch with Lonnie Chisenhall at the plate to make it a 4-1 Cleveland lead.
Salazar retired nine straight after the home run before a single to center by Alcides Escobar in the top of the sixth. The Royals would get a pair on base that inning, but could not score. Volquez settled down for the middle innings as well, giving up just two walks in the three innings following the Indians big three-run frame.
In the seventh, the Indians added an insurance run on a leadoff homer by Tyler Naquin off of Volquez. They added another in the eighth off of reliever Chien-Ming Wang, as Ramirez doubled with one out, stole third, and scored on an errant throw to the bag from Butera to give the game its final 6-1 tally.
Bryan Shaw pitched a quick and easy ninth inning to wrap up Salazar’s strong start, getting three straight grounders to end it.
There was no walk-off magic needed for the Tribe on Friday night, who improved to 29-24 on the season and matched a season-high five games over the .500 mark. The Royals fell to 30-24 with the loss and have seen their lead in the American League Central shrink to just a half game over the Indians. Their road woes continue, as they are now 11-17 away from Kauffman Stadium this season.
Salazar (6-3, 2.24 ERA) was simply superb on the mound, with the only blemishes on his stat sheet the solo homer by Butera and the five walks issued. He minimized the damage by allowing just three hits on the night while striking out nine on 113 total pitches.
“Seemed like early, when he missed, he missed by a lot,” said manager Terry Francona. “It seemed like the home run Butera hit jolted him a little bit and even though he had some walks, his stuff was so good. Fastball, even his last pitch, was like 97, 98. Really effective off-speed to go with it. When you’re throwing that hard and he starts throwing that breaking ball…a lot of good weapons. He did a good job because they’re coming into this series swinging the bats pretty good.”
He is 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA against the Royals this season. It was the ninth time in eleven starts this season that Salazar has limited opposing teams to two runs or less.
“Gomes is setting up, he just hits that mitt just about every time,” said Naquin. “He’s got good enough stuff that sometimes whenever he does miss a spot occasionally it’s still good enough to fool hitters. As you see tonight, eight innings, I want to say about two hits or so. He’s just dominant. And that’s a good lineup over there, obviously.”
VOLQUEZ GIVES LENGTH, LITTLE ELSE
Volquez (5-5, 4.03) could not solve the Indians early on. Despite the early damage, he did endure and give the Royals a long start, pitching into the seventh inning. On the night, he allowed five runs on seven hits, walked four, and struck out five over six and one-third innings.
LOVE THAT HOME COOKING
Ramirez extended his hitting streak to five games with his two-hit game. On this homestand, he is hitting 14-for-28 (.500). He has hit safely in eight of his last nine games and eleven of his last 13.
Naquin’s solo shot off of Volquez to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning was his first Major League home run. The opposite field shot landed in the left field bleachers.
“There is no feeling that will replace that,” said Naquin of hitting his first MLB home run. “It’s awesome any time you can win, especially being up here with these guys. We have a great clubhouse and I think anybody would agree with that. It’s a lot of fun being around these guys.”
He is 2-for-6 since his recall with a pair of RBI.
“That ball went out in a hurry. That’s hard to do. Good for him,” said Francona. “He’s come back this time and he seems relaxed, more relaxed, which I think is good. We’ll take hits, we’ll take contributions from everywhere because that’s the way we need to play.”
SCORE FIRST, SCORE OFTEN
The Indians are now 22-6 when scoring first in 2016 and 21-6 when scoring four runs or more.
MILESTONE FOR ESCOBAR
Kansas City shortstop Escobar reached a career milestone with his sixth inning single. It was the 1,000th hit of his Major League career.
Josh Tomlin (7-1, 3.79) will get a chance to extend the Indians winning streak on Saturday night as he takes on Kansas City’s Ian Kennedy (4-3, 3.03), the lone Royals pitcher to defeat the Indians this season.
First pitch is scheduled for a later-than-normal 7:15 PM ET start to accommodate the Fox television broadcast.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images