The Indians broke out the brooms against the Braves as Danny Salazar cruised in Atlanta and the bullpen backed up three runs of support late as Cleveland claimed a 3-0 win on Wednesday night.
The Indians (47-30) now own the longest winning streak in franchise history since 1951. The sweep over Atlanta gives Cleveland four consecutive sweeps in a row, including their entire six-game homestand to wrap up the June home schedule and the first six games on their current ten-game road trip.
In a well-pitched game for both sides, Salazar displayed better control on the mound, after a balk and a couple of wild pitches in the early going made things a little concerning. He worked out of a potential jam in the first inning after Jace Peterson doubled to start the game and moved to third on the balk. Ender Inciarte grounded sharply to third, but Jose Ramirez threw out Peterson at the plate for a big first out. Inciarte moved into scoring position on a wild pitch before Freddie Freeman lined out and Nick Markakis struck out swinging to end the threat. Salazar allowed a single to opposing starter Joel De La Cruz with one out in the third, but after he was eliminated on a fielder’s choice and Peterson moved to second on a wild pitch, Inciarte fouled out.
De La Cruz, making his Major League debut on the mound for the Braves, had allowed base runners in each of the first four innings, but got a pair of double play balls to kill rallies. That would change in the fifth, when the Indians got on the board.
Yan Gomes singled to center but was erased on a fielder’s choice by Tyler Naquin. Salazar bunted into his own fielder’s choice, with Naquin thrown out at second. Rajai Davis delivered a big ground rule double to left to move Salazar to third before Jason Kipnis slapped a single under the glove of third baseman Adonis Garcia to score both runners and give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
“I missed on a changeup first pitch and a fastball away,” said Kipnis. “I just made sure I wasn’t trying to pull it or yank it or anything.”
Cleveland tacked on another in the sixth, when Lonnie Chisenhall cleared the wall in right with a big home run to make it a three-run lead.
Salazar retired the final six batters he faced to clear seven innings with another quality start before handing the ball to Bryan Shaw and the bullpen. After two quick outs, Shaw walked Peterson and Inciarte reached on an infield single, but Shaw struck out Freeman swinging before he splintered his bat in the home plate area in frustration.
Cody Allen came on in the bottom of the ninth to close it out. Markakis singled to start the inning but was erased on the front end of a fielder’s choice. Tyler Flowers struck out swinging before a walk by Erick Aybar brought the tying run to the plate in Emilio Bonifacio. He grounded into a force at second to end it, giving Allen his 16th save in 18 tries this season.
The Braves (26-52) fall for the third straight game and are now 11-32 at home in their final season at Turner Field.
Salazar (10-3, 2.22 ERA) was much more dominant on the mound than in recent starts, even if those efforts did not effect the final outcome of those games.
He went seven shutout innings on Wednesday, allowing five hits while striking out eight. For the first time in 15 starts this season, he did not issue a walk. He did not get his usual run support, as he entered the game second in all of baseball in run support per nine innings with 8.13 runs per game.
“I thought as the game progressed, he was able to reach back when he needed to, like he can,” said manager Terry Francona. “Again, even when maybe you think he’s not as sharp with his off-speed, he still put up zeroes.”
While the results at the plate in interleague play were not great for Salazar, he did score the first run of his MLB career (in his 76th plate appearance) after reaching on a fielder’s choice in the fifth.
CHASING THE ERA CROWN
Salazar’s seven shutout innings moved him within decimal points of the American League ERA lead. He trails Boston knuckleballer (and former Indians prospect) Steven Wright’s 2.18.
“You knew Danny was in, doing well,” said Kipnis. “He made the adjustment, throwing more strikes today than he was in his last two starts.”
SIX STRAIGHT CLUB
Salazar has won each of his last six outings, matching the previous club best efforts by Josh Tomlin earlier this season and Cliff Lee back in 2008.
DE LA CRUZ DEALT THE LOSS
Despite the quality effort in his Major League debut, De La Cruz (0-1, 4.50) took home the loss in his first start for the Braves. He went six innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on seven hits. He walked one and struck out one.
It was not all for loss, as he also took home a baseball for his first MLB hit, a single in the third off of Salazar in his first at bat.
SUSTAINED STARTING SUCCESS
During the streak, the starting staff of the Tribe has posted a 1.91 ERA over 89 2/3 innings of work. Those five pitchers have allowed just 52 hits in that stretch. Salazar is a team-leading 3-0 in the dozen games. Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer have two wins each, while Carlos Carrasco and Tomlin have one. Allen, Shaw, and Dan Otero have notched wins from the bullpen.
SHUT ‘EM OUT
Three times on their current winning streak, the Indians have thrown a shutout. They have four in the month and seven for the season.
KIPNIS WITH ELEVEN STRAIGHT
Very quietly, second baseman Kipnis has extended his hitting streak to eleven straight games. He used a big two-run single to get the job done in the fifth inning Wednesday night. He has single hits in every game but one (his two-triple game in Detroit on June 24) and is hitting .267 during that stretch (12-for-45).
“He’s been really productive for us,” said Francona. “That was a big hit, because we hit into a couple double plays and it’s even. The way our guys are pitching, you get a lead like that, it certainly helps.”
CHASING 1942 AND 1951
With their win streak at a cool dozen, the Indians are now chasing the franchise mark of 13, last set in 1951. They matched the 12-game streak established by the club in 1922.
The 1951 had a good run and nearly got the American League pennant, had it not been for a late collapse.
Starting the second half of the season, they dropped a 1-0 final on July 12 before winning five of six. A 4-3 loss to Boston was followed by five straight wins, including two walk-offs, to finish their second half opening homestand at 10-3 and tied for first. Hitting the road for 14 games, they started the trip 2-3, including two walk-off losses, before winning three in a row. A loss in game two of the August 1 doubleheader against Washington on August 1 would be their final loss for some time, as they would win each of the last five games of the trip before winning seven straight on a seven-game homestand. They won the opener of their next road trip, win number 13, to push their division lead to 2.5 on August 15 before dropping three straight. They closed out September by losing five of their last six and finished in second place, five games behind the Yankees.
Prior to the game, the Braves optioned reliever Matt Marksberry to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room on the roster for De La Cruz. The club is expected to activate pitcher Mike Foltynewicz from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday to start against Miami.
VISITING THE NEIGHBOR TO THE NORTH
The Indians will keep their road show moving along as they head to Toronto to start a four-game set with the Blue Jays on Thursday night.
Right-hander Carrasco (3-2, 2.73) will look to keep the fun going on the mound as he takes on knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (5-8, 4.23).
First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Todd Kirkland