Indians improve to 29-24
On his first pitch to Drew Butera in the third inning, Danny Salazar hung a slider out over the plate. The Royals catcher pounded it into the left field bleachers to tie the game at 1. That home run seemed to drive Salazar the rest of the night; he retired the next nine batters he faced, and when he next faced Butera, he threw him five straight upper 90s fastballs.
But Salazar didn't just have his fastball working for him. His split/change was dynamic, and even his slider (the Butera pitch notwithstanding) was working as well. The Royals were missing three of their key hitters (Moustakas, Gordon, Perez), but they had been hitting well over the past week. Danny Salazar made that lineup look clueless, going eight innings, and hitting 97 mph on the radar in his final at-bat of his evening.
After the Royals tied the game in the top of the third, the Indians responded in the bottom of the inning, stringing together four straight hits off of Edinson Volquez. Drew Butera helped out by letting a Volquez pitch get by him, allowing the Tribe's third run of the inning to score. Volquez would settle down after that, pitching into the seventh inning, but thanks to Salazar that three-run inning would prove to be decisive.
Tyler Naquin, making his second start since returning to Cleveland, had a very good night at the plate. He worked a walk early in the game, and then hit his first MLB home run by lining a pitch on the outer half of the plate over the wall in left, an impressive piece of hitting. Jose Ramirez once again was a star on offense, going 2-for-4, including scoring a run all by himself in the eighth inning; he lined an opposite-field double down the left field line, then stole third and trotted home after Butera's throw got past third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert. Mike Napoli reached base twice, including a double that Jarrod Dyson misjudged, perhaps underestimating just how hard Napoli had hit the ball.
Danny Salazar's ERA now stands at 2.24 (second in the AL), and his 81 strikeouts lead the league. And tonight's electric performance makes you believe that his best is yet to come.
All of this played out before a boisterous Friday night crowd, the largest Progressive Field crowd since Opening Day. It was a beautiful June evening. There was cheap beer and hot dogs, and fireworks afterwards. And, oh yeah, the game was pretty good too.