Salazar Settles In and Tribe Survives Late Scare; Indians 3, Twins 1
Bob Toth | On 17, Apr 2017
It may have come with some nail biting in the ninth inning, but the Cleveland Indians are back in the win column again as they defeated the Minnesota Twins on Monday night, 3-1.
Danny Salazar gave the Indians the start that they needed to open their road trip. The strong outing from Cleveland’s number three starter was supported by a good day at the plate from Michael Brantley and some edge-of-your-seat pitching in the ninth from closer Cody Allen to bring home the Indians’ sixth win of the 2017 season.
While Salazar came away with his first win of the season, it did not come easy, especially in the early going when the Twins loaded the bases in the first inning after the Tribe starter recorded the first two outs quickly. Three straight singles from Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, and Robbie Grossman filled the bases, but Salazar got Jason Castro to ground up the middle, where shortstop Francisco Lindor made a nice ranging play to his left to retire the side.
The Twins would not waste their next opportunity in the second. Jorge Polanco walked and moved to third on a double by Eduardo Escobar. Eddie Rosario singled to center to drive in the game’s first run before Salazar settled back down and got the final three outs, including a pair of strikeouts.
After stranding single runners in the first two innings, the Indians touched up the scoreboard against Twins starter Kyle Gibson in the third. Yan Gomes started the inning with a nice single to center before a fly out by Carlos Santana. Lindor came up big with a double to the warning track in the right field corner to put two in scoring position for Brantley. The three-hitter grounded to first, but it was deep enough to score Gomes from third to tie the game at one all. The next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, lined a single into left to move Lindor across to put Cleveland on top, 2-1.
Salazar would allow single base runners in the third, fifth, and sixth, keeping the Twins in check while racking up more strikeouts to add to his already sizeable season total.
Cleveland left a pair in the fourth, but Brantley came through again in the clutch the next inning, taking Gibson deep with one out for a solo home run to extend the lead to 3-1. The Indians would strand two more to close out that inning and would have an opportunity in the sixth wasted, but Salazar would leave with a two-run lead, handing the ball over to the strong back end of the Tribe relief corps.
Bryan Shaw worked a perfect seventh and Andrew Miller had an uneventful eighth, with the exception of a rare walk issued to Grossman. But in the ninth, things got a little unnerving as Allen ran into some trouble.
After striking out Escobar to start the inning, Rosario dropped a single into right. Allen came back to notch a big strikeout of Brian Dozier for the second out, but Max Kepler doubled to right center to put the tying run at second. Sano worked a patient walk to load the bases, but Allen retired Mauer on a fly to center to end it. The save was Allen’s third of the season.
The Indians improved to 6-7 with the win and are back above the .500 mark on the road at 4-3 on the young season. The Twins fell to 7-6 through two weeks of action and are now 4-3 at home against their heavy schedule of American League Central Division opponents.
SALAZAR SETTLED IN
In the early going, it was hard to imagine a scenario in which Salazar would leave the game with a quality start under his belt. Instead, he showed some age and maturity on the mound as the first inning run would not snowball into more.
He worked six innings of one-run ball on the night, allowing seven hits and two walks, but striking out seven batters while keeping the Twins from adding to their early tally. He had 18 swing-and-miss strikes, far more than the three of his counterpart Gibson.
GIBSON GUTTED OUT HIS LONGEST OUTING OF SEASON
After his own early trouble, Gibson gutted his way into the sixth inning before manager Paul Molitor had to give him the hook with one out in the frame.
He was charged with three runs on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He pitched from behind early in the count most of the night, as he was first pitch strike to less than a third of the batters that he faced.
LINDOR PUSHES STREAK FORWARD
Make it an eleven-game hitting streak now for Lindor, who extended his impressive run at the plate with his third inning double. He would go 1-for-5 on the night with a run scored and is now hitting .346 on the season.
RAMIREZ MAKES IT TO FIVE
Jose Ramirez extended his own modest hitting streak to five games with a multi-hit game on Monday. His pair of singles also extended his on-base streak to seven straight games.
Ramirez is hitting .362 on the season with a .418 on-base percentage.
THE BENEFITS OF BRANTLEY
Few questioned how much of an impact a healthy Brantley would have had on the Indians roster last season. This year, the team is getting a pleasant reminder of what it is like to have him back manning left field on an every day basis.
In ten games in the lineup, Brantley is hitting .268. The far more impressive statistic on his game log is in the RBI column, where he has driven in a run in seven of the ten games that he has played. His fifth inning home run off of Gibson was his second of the season.
“He looks like Brantley, which is a big compliment to him and his work ethic,” shared Indians manager Terry Francona. “It’s one thing to come back, but you’ve got to still hit Major League pitching, and he really doesn’t look like he missed a beat.”
Game two of the four-game set at Target Field will feature a pair of veteran right-handers.
Josh Tomlin (0-2, 18.47 ERA) will get the starting nod on Tuesday night. He will look to get himself back on track after a disastrous start against the White Sox last week. Phil Hughes (2-0, 3.86) will oppose for the Twins. He had a tough time with the Tribe last year, going 2-2 with a 6.14 ERA in five outings (four starts), but is off to a good start in 2017.
First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images