No matter how much baseball you've watched, every game brings the possibility that you'll see something you've never seen before. Tonight, Danny Salazar showed us something no one had ever seen before. Salazar struck out the side in the 1st inning, then gave up a massive home run to Chicago's Jose Abreu to lead off the 2nd before striking out the next three hitters. The strikeouts kept coming, but things only got shakier from there.
Salazar gave up another home run to lead off the 3rd, then gave up a single, threw a wild pitch, gave up another single (on which David Murphy threw the batter out at second base, for the first non-strikeout out of the night), walked a man, and then struck out the final two hitters of the inning, giving him 8 Ks in three innings. Salazar recorded two more whiffs in the 4th, but also allowed another pair of runs and was removed before the end of the inning.
His final line: 3.2 innings, 5 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, with 10 strikeouts.
Prior to tonight, only five times in MLB history had a pitcher recorded 9 strikeouts while lasting fewer than 4 innings. Incredibly, one of those five games came from Salazar last September against the White Sox. So when he was pulled tonight, he became the first player ever to do it twice (and he's now got 33% of all such games in history). You'll notice that Salazar didn't just strike out 9 tonight though, he struck out 10, making him the first player ever to do that in fewer than 4 innings.
...What else was there?
Well, C.C. Lee retired 4 straight batters, and Scott Atchison made another scoreless appearance (6.1 shutout innings and counting), while Josh Outman gave up Abreu's second home run of the night (I sure he doesn't destroy the Indians for the next 6 years) and Blake Wood continued to make the case for operating with only a 7-man bullpen by allowing 1 run and 3 baserunners in an inning of work.
The Tribe scoring all happened early, as Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and later scored in the 1st, Jason Kipnis scored another run that inning on a sac fly by Ryan Raburn, and Cabrera hit his first home run of the season in the 3rd. The next scoring opportunity didn't come until the 6th, when Raburn and Michael Brantley got into scoring position with two outs. Yan Gomes popped out though, and the Indians went down in order in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings, all without hitting a single ball out of the infield. Ugh.
How do you judge a performance like Salazar's tonight? On the one hand, few pitchers in baseball have the stuff to strike out so many hitters in such a short timespan. I don't know that the Indians have had another pitcher in the nearly 30 years I've been following them that could do that. On the other hand, Salazar continues to give up a ton of home runs, and all the strikeouts in the world aren''t going to do much good if every other inning you're giving up a long ball. The other thing is, even if Salazar hadn't given up any runs at all, he probably wasn't going farther than 5 innings into the game, because he was throwing so many pitches (not that I wouldn't have taken 5 shutout innings with 15 strikeouts!). He's an incredible talent, but there's still a lot of work to be done if he's to become the reliable ace so many Tribe fans seem to have convinced themselves he already is.
The loss ends a 14-game winning streak against the White Sox, which was the Indians' longest streak against a single opponent in the expansion era. The series continues tomorrow night at 8:10 ET. Carlos Carrasco takes the mound to face off against Chris Sale. Hold onto your butts.
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