Thursday’s Indians game against the Astros was NOT dull.
Let’s break this recap into two chapters.
Chapter 1 — Danny Salazar and the Radar Gun
We all were excited about Salazar’s start tonight. It was his first appearance on the mound for the big Tribe since September 2017. Who doesn’t fondly recall Salazar absolutely lighting up the radar gun as a rookie in 2013`, throwing blazing fastball after fastball? Just electric stuff. Salazar lived in the upper 90s and touched 100 mph plenty those days and put up FIPs of 3.16, 3.52, 3.62, 3.74, and 3,48. His ceiling seemed limitless.
Reports from Salazar’s rehab starts were that his velocity was down some, with fastballs in the low 90’s. I’m not saying the Tribe’s brass or the Double-A radar gun was lying, but well the velo was WAY down Thursday evening.
MLB.TV was kinda messing up so I got a chance to watch all of Salazar’s warmup pitches before the first inning. I thought he looked like he was playing catch with his buddy at a beer league softball game. Pro scout I am not, but he looked like he was really soft-tossing it.
Well, Salazar’s first pitch is a mid-80s fastball-ish looking straight-pitch that Matt Underwood calls offspeed. I’m thinking, “Uhhh-ohhhh that wasn’t a changeup.” A few pitches later George Springer crushes an 86 mph batting practice fastball for a homer to left field. Yeeeesh.
The whole outing was like that start, with Salazar sitting in the 80’s with his loopy-ish fastball and then lots of other junk to keep the Astros kinda off-balance. So we now have Danny Salazar, the junkballer.
Of course, this is one start. He’s had serious arm issues and maybe his shoulder was tight or he had an off-night or whatever. Salazar did battle out there, going four innings and giving up two earned runs (both solo shots). His changeup had plenty of movement and he threw some good curveballs. He gave up four hits and walked three, while striking out two.
Ultimately, we were so excited for this start and my gosh this seems like just about the worst possible outcome (besides a terrible injury to Salazar).
Chapter 2 — The Rest of the Loss
The Indians were facing Gerrit Cole and let’s not fool ourselves . . . he’s nasty. He held the Indians to one earned run on four hits. He pumped upper-90s fastballs and then broke off dirty breaking balls all night long.
The Tribe did have some good at-bats against Cole and some opportunities to put up some crooked numbers. However, getting two runners thrown out at the plate (Sarbaugh!) didn’t help.
Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes made their Indians debuts and both finished with a hit and some exciting hard outs.
The bullpen in relief of Salazar was good/bad . . . with Tyler Clippard and Nick Wittgren having good nights and AJ Cole and Tyler Olson struggling.
Next up is a three-game series against the Angels. Let’s Go Tribe!