Two games into their first home series, the Cleveland Indians have allowed just three runs, but they’ve won just one of those games because they’ve only scored 3 runs.
Danny Salazar struggled mightily with location early in his outing. And by location I mean inside the strike zone. Some of the pitches he thew in the second inning, for instance, were about as centered in the strike zone as you could possibly get, particularly the pitch to Omar Navaez (who thankfully is better at blocking pitches in the dirt than taking advantage of high changeups.)
But give Danny credit, as he fought through those first painful innings, where every out was a herculean task, and found a groove that kept him (and his team) in the game. Salazar ended his evening with a flourish, striking out five out of the final six batters he faced, and finished with eleven strikeouts (tying a career high). If Salazar hadn’t completely whiffed on Carlos Santana’s feed in the fifth inning (more on that later), Terry Francona may have sent him out for the seventh inning. Not that that really mattered.
Meanwhile Derek Holland’s night was almost a mirror image of Salazar’s. The Newark, Ohio native no-hit the Indians for five innings, then ran into serious trouble in the sixth. Holland, who historically has owned the Tribe, especially at Progressive Field, allowed just three base runners (two walks and a catcher’s interference) prior to that sixth inning. Francisco Lindor, who of late has practically been the Indians offense, broke the ice with a double to lead of the sixth, but he got out of the jam with a bit of at-em luck. First, Michael Brantley lined a pitch into the right-center gap, but center fielder Leury Garcia had just moved that way and was in position to catch the liner. Then Jose Ramirez lined a pitch down the right field line, but Avisail Garcia was right there to make the catch. The BABIP gods were not on the Tribe’s side tonight.
Cleveland’s defense was outstanding. Jose Ramirez made a very good pick and an even better throw to nab Melky Cabrera on a ball up the middle, and Carlos Santana made an outstanding defensive that unfortunately didn’t result in an out. Santana made a diving stop on a hard-hit grounder, then got up, made an accurate throw to Salazar, who plain missed catching the ball. To be fair to Salazar, he had not yet found first base, and probably had most of his thoughts directed towards his feet, but even so, it was a play that he makes 98 times out of 100.
Despite the toothless offensive attack most of the night, the Indians found themselves in a great position to at least tie the game in the eighth inning. Carlos Santana led off the inning with a sharp single in the first base hole, then went to third on Francisco Lindor’s second double of the game.* Michael Brantley fell behind Nate Jones 0-2, which is a very bad spot to find yourself in, but he worked back into the count and would drive home Santana on a weak grounder to first base. That set the stage for Edwin Encarnacion, who struggled yesterday in RBI situations. Unfortunately, EE struck out by chasing a 3-2 slider out of the zone, and Jose Ramirez couldn’t deliver with two outs.
Daniel Robertson David Robertson slammed the door shut in the ninth, getting his first save of the 2017 campaign.
So in summary: Salazar started out reallly slow, but got things together and finished with a flourish, striking out 11. The Tribe offense was almost non-existent early, and failed to capitalize on a couple later opportunities. The Indians are now 4-4.
At least the new LED lights at Progressive Field were impressive.
*Santana probably should have scored on the double, but ultimately that didn’t cost the Indians, unless somehow Lindor would have gone to third on the play.