The Tampa Bay Rays won their Home Run Derby competition with the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Tuesday night with a 6-4 victory to even the series at one game apiece.
While the 2019 All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby may still be several years away, Danny Salazar looked the part of the fan-driven exhibition’s pitcher in a strange outing for the Indians right-hander. He gave Cleveland five-plus innings of work on the mound, but four homers offset a nine-strikeout performance and proved to be too much to overcome, despite the Indians dealing Rays starter Jake Odorizzi his worst start since his first outing of the season.
Salazar needed a lot of pitches to get through three batters in the first, striking out a pair but needing 21 throws to the plate to finish the frame. He was off to a much more efficient start in the second, striking out Logan Morrison and Steven Souza Jr. on six total pitches for the first two outs before Colby Rasmus homered to right-center to put Tampa on top, 1-0. He notched his fifth K of the first two innings after a single by Tim Beckham.
Odorizzi worked out of a bit of a jam in the bottom of the second after a leadoff walk by Carlos Santana and a one-out single by Jose Ramirez. A double play grounder by Lonnie Chisenhall turned the game back over to Salazar, and three pitches later, the Tribe’s deficit was larger.
Derek Norris saw a ball before hitting a line drive over the wall in left near the foul pole to make it a 2-0 game. On the very next pitch, leadoff man Corey Dickerson made up for his strikeout to start the ball game with a solo homer of his own to right to push the Tampa lead to three.
The Indians got on the board in the bottom of the third against Odorizzi, who entered with single runs allowed in each of his last three starts. Yan Gomes doubled to the left field corner before Bradley Zimmer, making his Major League debut, struck out swinging. Jason Kipnis stepped into the box and delivered a double to left, driving in Gomes to make it a 3-1 game. He would get no further, however, as Francisco Lindor lined his first pitch back to Odorizzi and Michael Brantley grounded out to second.
Salazar needed 24 more pitches to escape the fourth and nearly worked himself into trouble after walking Rasmus with one out and Daniel Robertson with two down. But he ended the long inning the same way he started it, with a swinging strikeout. He would add his final two strikeouts of the night in the fifth, but only after a moonshot from Dickerson sailed over the center field trees more than 450 feet away from home plate. The hot-hitting leadoff man’s second blast of the game made it 4-1.
Odorizzi retired six straight Indians after the Kipnis RBI hit before a single with one out in the fifth by Gomes, but he would be stranded. The Rays got back to work to support their right-hander, as Souza doubled off of Salazar to end his night. Newly called up Shawn Armstrong came on and got a grounder from Rasmus, but Beckham homered to center to give Tampa a 6-1 advantage that would prove too much for the Tribe to overcome.
It was not without a lack of effort, as the Indians did chip away against Odorizzi in his final inning in the home half of the sixth. Lindor and Brantley each singled before Santana knocked in a run on a groundout. Edwin Encarnacion joined in the Home Run Derby with a two-run blast to center to cut the score to 6-4, but Odorizzi retired the final two of the inning to escape further harm.
The Indians could do nothing against rookie left-hander Jose Alvarado in the seventh and eighth innings, but gave closer Alex Colome a scare in the bottom of the ninth with the score still 6-4. Encarnacion singled to start the inning and moved to second on a groundout by Ramirez. Chisenhall was cut down swinging on a ball in the dirt for the second out. Encarnacion advanced to third on a wild pitch, but Gomes struck out swinging on three straight pitches as he could not deliver a game-tying blast. It was Colome’s tenth save of the season.
The Indians dropped to 20-18 with the defeat, but a loss by the Minnesota Twins to the Colorado Rockies left them in the same position in the standings – second place and a half-game in back of the top spot. The Rays improved to 20-22 on the season and 8-12 on the road in evening up the series at one game each.
ODORIZZI WINS FIRST AGAINST TRIBE
The Tampa right-hander Odorizzi (3-2, 3.16) had a good looking line on the mound until the Indians got to him for three in the sixth, ending a run of three straight outings of one run allowed since his return from the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
He allowed four runs on seven hits with a walk and five strikeouts over six innings of work. It was his worst start since his season debut, when he worked six innings and allowed a similar four runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts in a 5-0 loss to the New York Yankees. He had allowed just five earned runs in his five starts since, coming into Tuesday night’s action.
His win against Cleveland was his first in four tries and came in his first outing against them since 2014.
SALAZAR’S STRANGE NIGHT
When a pitcher racks up nine Ks in an outing, chances are, he put himself in a good position to win. That was not the case for Salazar (2-4, 5.66 ERA), who allowed a career-high four long balls on a warm May night from downtown Cleveland.
The stat line for the Cleveland starter was a confusing mess – he allowed five runs on six hits in five-plus innings with two walks.
“He has good enough stuff to punch out nine,” said manager Terry Francona after the game. “Gives up six hits, four of them are home runs. When he made a mistake he really paid for it.”
ZIMMER’S TOUGH DEBUT
Zimmer got the call from Columbus with another Indians outfielder headed to the disabled list and hit in the ninth spot in the batting order while playing center field. He was 0-for-3 at the plate with three strikeouts on the night.
ROSTER SHUFFLE CONTINUES
The ever-evolving Indians roster continued to change as the club had to place outfielder Abraham Almonte on the 10-day disabled list with a right biceps strain. While there is no timetable for his return, it sounds as though he will miss more than just the ten-day minimum.
Zimmer and Armstrong were both added to the roster Tuesday as the Indians formally purchased their top prospect’s contract from Triple-A Columbus.
To make room on the roster for the players, Yandy Diaz was optioned to Triple-A. The Indians also designated right-handed pitcher Carlos Frias for assignment from his spot in Columbus to free up space on the 40-man roster for the addition of Zimmer.
THE RUBBER MATCH
There will be much less rest for the two clubs with a getaway day 12:10 PM ET start on Wednesday afternoon as right-handers Alex Cobb and Josh Tomlin face off from Progressive Field, both looking to clinch a series win.
Cobb (3-3, 3.65) has thrown three straight quality starts in May after an up-and-down April that included three starts of four earned runs each. He walked a season-high three batters in his last start against Boston, but made his third straight start allowing just four hits and got the win. Tomlin (2-4, 5.87) has been much better on the mound for Cleveland after allowing 23 earned runs over five April starts. He has allowed just two earned runs total in his last 15 innings of work, but has an 0-1 May record to show for it as he has been supported with just three runs in those two starts.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak