We’ve seen this Danny Salazar before. Not this year, and not in the second half of last year, but this isn’t the first time The Dzar has looked this dominant.
The last time he was striking out this many batters, walking this few batters, and just looking like a Cy Young-quality pitcher was the first half of 2016. Remember that? When we he was selected to the All-Star game and we thought the sky was the limit for the once combustible pitcher? Turns out he was combustible, either his elbow, forearm, or attitude just wouldn’t work for a full calendar year. But here we are, two starts in from his latest disabled list stint and he was absolutely filthy.
As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported, Salazar was basically unhittable tonight. Almost in a literal sense, because he carried a no-hitter through four innings, but he was also drawing an insane amount of swinging strikes from Chicago White Sox batters, finishing with a season-high of 23.
Salazar's day is done after Davidson's 20th homer of year. Line: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K, 97 (66). Had season-high 23 swinging strikes.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 29, 2017
Salazar’s legendary changeup was responsible for most of the whiffs, nine altogether according to Baseball Savant, but it wasn’t all the changeup — he had absolutely everything working. Even the movement on his two-seamer was ridiculous, and his curveball was absolutely buzzing.
Danny Salazar got a spin rate of 2944 rpm on this filthy curve in the 3rd. One of his highest of the season. Yolmer Sanchez: no chance. pic.twitter.com/dWg88YW30F— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) July 29, 2017
I’ll admit I had my doubts about Salazar coming back and being anything but inconsistent (even after his great first start back), but I’m occasionally willing to admit I’m wrong. But I’m still not wrong about the navy blue jerseys, they are overused and the Indians need to go back to the traditional road grays/home whites. Okay, enough of my old man ranting.
If you believe in pitcher-vs-team matchups, you probably thought tonight would be a rough one for the Indians offense. They were tasked with facing Derek Holland, a pitcher who had a history of great starts against Cleveland in his eight-year career. With the exception of one 1.2-inning game against the Indians in 2011 in which he gave up four earned off five hits, Holland rarely exits a game against the Tribe and isn’t able to sleep tight at night knowing he did his best that day. That wasn’t the case tonight.
After a quiet first inning that ended with an Edwin Encarnacion double play, the Indians pounced on the weakened White Sox pitching staff. Jose Ramirez kicked things off with a lead-off homer in the second inning, Yan Gomes added another one with a single in the fourth, then in the fifth they just got rude about it.
After Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor both singled to start the inning, then advanced on a wild pitch, the White Sox had a brilliant idea:
Sure, go ahead and intentionally load the bases for the All-Star with a chip on his shoulder.— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) July 29, 2017
With Edwin walked to first, Jose Ramirez was up to bat and he did a very Jose thing — he hit a double with runners in scoring position. That was his seventh double with a runner on second this season, and his 19th dating back to last season. It was also his second of four hits on the night, giving him his second four-hit game of the season and the fourth of his career.
There were too many great offensive performances tonight to list without just sounding like a dramatic box score reading (oh hey Michael Brantley homered while I was writing this), but let’s focus on Santana, if only because he’s turning into the July version of June-Encarnacion.
Santana was 2-for-5 tonight with a home run and a walk. It’s taken Santana a while to get his power going, but in July he’s slashing an incredible .328/.384/.627 coming into tonight, with five of his 14 home runs coming in the month, as well. His walks are down and strikeouts are up, as they have been all season, but if it works it works.
As a team, the Indians are one of the hottest in baseball. I’m forced to say “one of” because the Kansas City Royals took my joke post about rooting for them to win way too seriously.
I still don’t think the Royals will win down the stretch, and they’ll have torched their future for nothing, but right now they own the longest active streak in the league at nine games and they somehow keep winning, no matter how loudly I yell at them on Twitter to stop.
Hopefully they’ll listen soon.