Salazar and Perez a Winning Combo; Indians 4, Twins 2

Did The Tribe Win Last Night? Yes, they did! Danny Salazar had his first Major League start of the year on Saturday and faced Phil Hughes of the Twins. Despite his struggles during Spring Training, Salazar settled in on the mound and delivered strike out after strike out, giving up only two runs – including one home run – in just over six innings of work.

Roberto Perez delivered a solo home run in the top of the third inning to put Cleveland on the board. The Twins followed with a run in the bottom half of the inning when Torii Hunter doubled on a fly ball that scored Eduardo Nunez and tied game at 1. The fourth inning had Cleveland pulling ahead, however, as a sacrifice fly from Lonnie Chisenhall scored Brandon Moss and gave the Indians the go-ahead run. The Tribe hit their stride in the seventh inning when Perez and Ramirez provided the team with some much-needed insurance runs to give them a 4-1 lead.

Salazar gave up a home run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Twins their second run of the game and was replaced by Nick Hagadone, who managed to keep the Twins off the board for two innings as all six batters he faced went down in order. Cody Allen closed the game and earned the save, despite walking Kurt Suzuki who advanced to third during the last at-bat of the game. Suzuki did not manage to score, and Allen kept the Tribe ahead at 4-2 to end the game.

WP: Salazar (1-0)       LP: Hughes (0-3)

Key Inning: In the low-scoring game, the top of the seventh packed the most punch for the Tribe as Perez had his third hit of the game when he singled with one out. His hit was followed by a single from Ramirez. With men on first and second with one out, Michael Bourn lined out to right field, and Jason Kipnis snapped an 0-for-16 streak with a single that scored Perez and sent Ramirez to third. The Twins decided that was it for Hughes and went to their bullpen with two outs in the seventh.

Hughes ended his 6.2 inning outing with three strikeouts and allowed two runs on seven hits. He walked one batter. Hughes was replaced by Caleb Thielbar who, on his third pitch of the game, unleashed a wild pitch to Michael Brantley. Ramirez scored and gave the Tribe a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.

Players of the Game: Danny Salazar. Salazar appeared untouchable throughout his first big league outing of the season. He struck batters out with his fastball and used his change-up to keep batters o their toes throughout the game. Salazar struck out nine players in his first five innings, and totaled 10 total strikeouts in his outing.

60 of his first 92 pitches were thrown at speeds above 95 mph. He gave up a home run to Suzuki in the bottom of the seventh inning to shorten the Indians lead to 4-2 and exited the game at that point. He left with a final line of six hits, two runs, two walks, 10 strike outs, and one home run – hardly a poor showing in his first time back with the big league team this season.

Roberto Perez also had himself a strong game at the plate, as he went 3-4 including his home run in the third inning. He was thrown out at first in his last at-bat, but demonstrated that he is more than capable of being a regular member of the team for this Indians roster.

They Said It: “I don’t think anybody is hitting in the whole organization.” Rick Manning and Matt Underwood discussed the offensive woes of the Indians organization in the bottom of the fourth inning. Sure, it will change down the line, they agreed, but the lack of offense seems to be infectious among all levels of the organization. With four runs, the Indians amassed eight total hits Saturday afternoon, the same number they had in Friday’s 11 inning loss.

“If it weren’t for Yan Gomes, he would be starting!” Manning and Underwood also reminisced about Sandy Alomar’s comments regarding Perez when Gomes went on the DL last week, claiming that Perez was more than qualified to be a starting catcher; he unfortunately found himself on a roster that also boasts one of the strongest catchers in the league. The team is clearly happy with his skills, though, as there was seemingly no hesitancy when instating Perez as the everyday catcher in Gomes’ absence.

Etc.: Salazar will remain in the Indians rotation after today’s start, and Zach McAllister will move to the bullpen to continue the season. Salazar made one start in Columbus this season, striking out seven and walking none over six innings.

Standings: At the conclusion of today’s game, the Indians are 4-6 and tied with the White Sox in the AL Central. They trail the Tigers (9-2) and Royals (8-2), and the Twins fall to the bottom of the Central Division at 4-7.

Analysis: If Salazar can keep up the momentum he demonstrated today, he’ll be a strong addition to the Indians’ rotation this season. His struggles have been a sign that he still has some work to do to to iron out his command and consistency, but his start thus far in Columbus and his appearance today can give fans confidence in what Salazar can deliver this season. A rotation of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, T.J. House, Carlos Carrasco, and Salazar will hardly be something to mess around with for opposing teams.

Perez is, of course, no Gomes, but his offensive contributions were very welcome for a team who has not been offensively-minded as of late. Though Yan will eventually return to his spot on the field, if Perez continues performing well at the plate, it would be nice to see him in the lineup from time to time.

Up Next: T.J. House will close out the Indians series with the Twins tomorrow afternoon and will attempt to have a better appearance than he had in his first start, when he allowed six runs on six hits, including one home run, in only 1 1/3 innings against the Tigers. He walked three and struck out two in his appearance. He will face righty Trevor May, who gave up five runs on eight hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings. The game is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. Eastern at Target Field. 

Photo: Jim Mone/AP Photo

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