In a fast paced pitchers’ duel between two young right-handers at Progressive Field, Seattle Mariners starter Taijuan Walker was the beneficiary of just two runs, but that was enough to defeat Danny Salazar and the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night by a 2-1 final.
Both pitchers were sharp on the mound on a cool and calm night from downtown Cleveland. Both Walker and Salazar allowed three hits in their outings, but two early runs from the Mariners in the second would prove to be the difference in the contest.
Salazar had to pitch out of trouble in the first after an error and a two-out single brought Kyle Seager to the plate. Four pitches and three swings and misses later, the threat was over. In the second, the M’s again threatened quickly as Adam Lind led off the inning with a single through the hole vacated at shortstop by the shift and moved to second on a walk from Chris Iannetta. After a line out and a strike out, Nori Aoki sliced a two-run triple down the right field line that bounced off of the wall in foul territory and the back fence, immediately challenging Lonnie Chisenhall in his first game of the season. The Tribe’s right fielder misplayed the ball twice, allowing the slower Iannetta to score all the way from first.
Salazar retired eleven straight hitters after the triple before giving up two walks in the sixth. Those would be the final two base runners of the game from the Mariners.
Cleveland scratched across their only run in the third after a leadoff double from Juan Uribe to left. Tyler Naquin grounded into a fielder’s choice as Walker fielded and caught Uribe between second and third for the out. Jose Ramirez reached on an error to put two in scoring position and Jason Kipnis drove Naquin in with a sacrifice fly, but a first-pitch groundout from Francisco Lindor ended the rally with the Tribe still in back, 2-1.
The Indians could not figure out Walker and wasted the few opportunities that they had on the night.
Carlos Santana doubled with one out in the second. A pair of groundouts ruined Cleveland’s first chance to score. Lindor singled with one out in the sixth, but was stranded at first base. Uribe walked with two outs in the seventh off of veteran reliever Joel Peralta, but pinch-runner Rajai Davis was picked off and caught stealing. Naquin led off the eighth with a single, but was eliminated on a fielder’s choice as reliever Joaquin Benoit threw to second to gun down the lead runner. While Ramirez, who had bunted into that fielder’s choice, would move into scoring position on a wild pitch, a line out from Kipnis and another first-pitch groundout from Lindor left the tying run standing at second.
“Those things, when you’re trying to be aggressive as he was, Peralta kinda gave him a good…he dropped his head,” shared Indians manager Terry Francona after the game about the Davis pickoff. “He was going to be aggressive and I know it probably doesn’t look great. The idea was for him to be aggressive.”
New Mariners reliever Steve Cishek blew through the Tribe in the ninth, striking out a pair to end it.
“I thought both starters were good, two young good right-handers,” said Francona. “The inning they scored their two, [they] had an opposite field base hit through the shift and he walked Iannetta. It looked like he was trying to get himself out of it. He fell behind 2-1 to Aoki and tried to go down and away with a fastball and it ran over the middle and he hooked it. Those are their runs and they made it hold up.”
STUCK AT .500
The Indians (6-6) return to the .500 mark once again with the loss to the Mariners. They have been no more than one game above even and one game below even at any point this season. Their high water winning streaks and losing streaks are both a meager two games. Cleveland also fell to 3-4 at home on the season.
Seattle improved to 6-8 with the win, including 5-3 on the road.
WALK THIS WAY
Walker (1-0, 1.50 ERA) gave Seattle six innings on the mound, allowing one unearned run on three hits while striking out six. Seventy-eight of his 110 pitches (70.9%) were for strikes. He has faced the Indians three times now in his career and owns wins in all three. He has given up two runs (one earned) in 20 innings (0.45 ERA) against them in his career with 13 hits and two walks and 20 strikeouts.
“He’s got velocity, offspeed, he’s athletic. He’s good,” said Francona. “He’s kinda like how we feel about Danny. I’m sure that’s the same way they feel about him.”
NO LUCK FOR SALAZAR IN GEM
Salazar (2-1, 1.47) got the Corey Kluber treatment from his offense as he was granted just one run of support in his outing. He pitched seven quality innings on the night, giving up two runs on three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. He threw 70 of his 114 pitches (61.4%) for strikes on the night.
“When you start backing them up, and talking about consistency, that’s a good feeling,” said Francona of Salazar. “I don’t see any reason why that should change. He’s working hard, his routines are good. He’s going to be okay.”
Cishek earned his second save of the season for Seattle after signing with the club in the offseason as a free agent. He needed just ten pitches to retire the Tribe in the ninth, nine of which were strikes. Five of those were looking, including all three to start at bats.
WELCOME BACK, CHIZ
Chisenhall was activated by the Indians from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game and started in right field. He was 0-for-3 at the plate.
“I thought he had some bat speed,” Francona said. “He pulled a ball foul. He got to some pitches. He drove that ball to left field pretty good. I thought he looked healthy.”
Outfielder Collin Cowgill was optioned to Triple-A Columbus prior to the game.
This was no game for fans of offense, as the two teams combined for just seven hits on the evening. Cleveland had four of them, including the second doubles of the season for both Santana and Uribe. Seattle was limited to just three hits, but made them stand up for the win.
Right-hander Cody Anderson (0-1, 5.91) will look for his first win of the season in the afternoon rubber match between Cleveland and Seattle. Nate Karns (1-1, 4.50), a third straight right-hander to oppose the Tribe, will get the start for the Mariners.
First pitch in Thursday’s matinee will be at 12:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Phil Long