Salazar Starts Second Half With Another W; Indians 7, Royals 3
Bob Toth | On 19, Jul 2016
It was Danny Salazar to the rescue for the Indians, as his quality start was supported by some quality offense and quality relief pitching as Cleveland ended a four-game losing skid against the Kansas City Royals with a 7-3 win at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night.
With a two-run lead before he even took the mound, Salazar contained the Royals, preventing a runner from getting past first base until the sixth on the way to his eleventh win of the season. It was a big contribution from the team’s right-handed power bat that got the party started in the first.
The Royals sent left-handed reliever Brian Flynn to the mound to make his first start since August of 2014 and manager Terry Francona packed his lineup with eight right-handed bats. It was his lone lefty, Jason Kipnis, who started things with a one-out single to center, but he was erased at second on a fielder’s choice grounder by Francisco Lindor. The inning was not over, however, as Mike Napoli continued his torrid July with a mammoth 430-foot blast near the left field foul pole to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
Lindor would factor in the scoring again in the third, when the Indians padded their early lead. Erik Gonzalez singled to center and Rajai Davis walked on four straight. Kipnis dropped a bunt down perfectly between the mound and home plate and Royals catcher Salvador Perez fired to third, but his throw was not in time to get Gonzalez. Lindor stepped to the plate and lifted a fly ball to right, deep enough to score Gonzalez with the third run of the night while sending Flynn to an early shower on another steamy night from Missouri.
Salazar had to throw quite a few pitches to get through the first few innings, but dodged singles in each of the frames. A pair of strikeouts in a quicker fourth gave him five on the game and his offense rewarded him with more runs.
With one down against reliever Dillon Gee, Kipnis doubled to right. He moved to third on an infield single by Lindor and Napoli walked to load the bases for Carlos Santana. He delivered with a big two-run single to right to make the score 5-0. Jose Ramirez grounded to first, with Santana forced at second for the second out, but Juan Uribe drove home Napoli on a single for the third run of the frame to give Salazar a six-run cushion.
Salazar allowed another single in the fifth, but escaped harm. The same would not be said in the following inning, when the Royals finally strung hits together to scratch the scoreboard. With one out, Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales each singled to set the table for Perez, whose RBI single made it 6-1. Alex Gordon grounded out to first for the second out, but with Paulo Orlando at the plate, Salazar uncorked a wild pitch to score Morales before Orlando popped to short to short-circuit the rally.
Another issue at the dish gave the Royals a run in the seventh. Whit Merrifield walked and moved to second on a single from Jarrod Dyson. Both runners moved up on a passed ball on catcher Chris Gimenez and one out later, Cheslor Cuthbert hit a sacrifice fly to left. Salazar handed the ball and the game over to the bullpen, but unlike the previous night, things went the way of the Tribe as Kyle Crockett entered and made Hosmer look bad swinging for strike three to end the last shot the Royals had on the night.
Lindor homered in the ninth to give the Indians another insurance run. Bryan Shaw, one night after a night to forget on the mound, struck out a pair in an easy 1-2-3 eighth inning. Cody Allen, getting some work in a non-save situation, set the side down in order, including striking out Dyson on three pitches to shut the door.
The Indians (55-38) ended their Kauffman drought after losing each of the first four games in Kansas City this season. They are now 3-2 on their nine-game road trip with their eyes on the rubber match Wednesday afternoon and go into the matchup with a six and a half game lead over Detroit in the AL Central. The Royals (47-46) lost a rare game at home, where they are now 30-14 on the season. They are in third place and trail the Indians by eight games.
SALAZAR STRONG IN FIRST SECOND HALF START
Salazar (11-3, 2.75 ERA) maintained his impressive ERA with a solid start to his second half. After skipping the All-Star Game and being the last starter to debut after the break for the Indians to give his right elbow some extra rest, he threw six and two-thirds innings of good baseball. He allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits, walked just one, and struck out seven. He left with two outs in the seventh with 104 pitches thrown, 68 for strikes.
“He did a really good job of keeping them off the scoreboard for the most part,” said Francona after the game. “We really needed that bounce back win.”
Salazar was aggressive on the mound, tempting an aggressive Royals lineup to hit the pitch he gave them as opposed to waiting for the ones they wanted. It made for his seventh straight win.
“They like to swing a lot,” he shared after the win. “You really have to mix your pitches.”
DUDE, WHERE’S MY GLOVE?
Salazar played Tuesday without his usual fielding glove and instead borrowed that of closer Allen. While in San Diego for the All-Star Game, he had mailed some of his possessions to Cleveland and some to Minneapolis. His glove was inadvertently placed with items heading to Progressive Field instead of those heading towards Target Field, where the Indians were starting the second half of the season.
FLYNN FALLS SHORT OF PITCH LIMIT
Flynn (1-1, 3.14) did not make it to the 60 to 70 pitches that the Royals had hoped that he would throw on the night. He lasted just two and one-third innings, allowing three runs on four hits with a walk and a strikeout on 43 pitches. He got the quick hook while the game was still close at hand, but Gee, whose spot Flynn was pitching in, gave up three himself on six hits and a walk in five and one-third innings of relief while striking out five.
The fifth starter spot in the Royals rotation remains a concern, as Chris Young had been homer-happy in his time in the spot before them.
STREAKING AT THE PARTY AT NAPOLI’S
Napoli was 1-for-4 in the contest Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to eight straight games. He is 11-for-29 (.379) during the streak with a double, four home runs, and eight RBI. He has also drawn nine walks and struck out just four times in that stretch, including just one strikeout over his last five games.
His home run in the first inning was his 21st of the season, moving him ahead of Santana for the team lead. He has just four seasons in his eleven-year career that he has provided more home runs than his current total and just three years with more RBI.
Gonzalez made his first Major League start on Tuesday night in the win, inserted in the ninth spot in the batting order while playing right field. He was 1-for-3 at the plate and registered his first MLB hit in the third, a single to center off of Flynn.
The Indians’ win, coupled with losses by Baltimore and Texas, kept Cleveland in the top spot in the American League standings. Texas fell to 55-40 with their loss to the Los Angeles Angels, while Baltimore fell to 53-39 with their defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees.
MORALES IN THE LINEUP
One day after exiting the game early, Morales was back in the starting lineup for the Royals. Morales had been hit by a pitch from Corey Kluber in the left foot and later fouled a pitch off of his right foot, but x-rays on the latter proved to be negative and he was diagnosed with a bruise.
BRANTLEY SHELVED AGAIN
The Indians announced prior to the game that ailing left fielder Michael Brantley had once again been shut down from his attempt to return to the Major League lineup. He had been unable to play in consecutive games as hoped and will have his right shoulder re-examined. He had experienced discomfort when completing his swings.
THE RUBBER MATCH
With the series knotted up at one game each, the Indians will look for their first series win in Kansas City this season as they send right-hander Carlos Carrasco (6-3, 2.49) to the mound in the finale. He is 0-1 this season against the Royals in two starts after going a perfect 4-0 against them with a 1.55 ERA and 0.83 WHIP last season. He has performed exceptionally well away from home this season, posting a 4-2 mark with a 1.94 ERA in seven starts thus far.
The Royals will counter with Ian Kennedy (6-7, 3.86), one of the few KC starters with success this season against the Indians. He is 2-1 versus the Tribe with a 4.12 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in his first appearances against the Indians in five years.
First pitch from Kauffman Stadium is scheduled for 2:15 PM ET.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images