Stephanie Storm’s final thoughts on the Indians 8-2 victory over the host Twins in the second game of a three-game series at Target Field.
Danny Salazar is back with the Indians after a two-month stint in the minors and was effective enough in his first start with the tribe to pitch five innings and earn the win. But even in limiting the Twins to a fourth-inning run, the right-hander didn’t really seem like the dominating pitcher he was last year when he burst on the scene as a rookie.
“I thought he threw more breaking balls,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But he left a couple (balls) over the plate, a couple up (in the strike zone). But that was more of the stuff that we had come to appreciate last year.”
Still, Salazar worked in and out of trouble in all but one inning – his final in which he sat down the side in order. In the four previous frames he worked with runners on base – including a big early test when he issued three consecutive walks to load the bases – with no outs.
While Salazar should be commended for managing to escape unscathed – by striking out the side – Yan Gomes called time and trotted to the mound. Asked what Gomes’ pearls of wisdom were, Salazar smiled. “He’s not the type to come out (to the mound) often,” Salazar said. “He just told me to breathe.”
3) Tribe pitching coach Mickey Callaway also jogged out to the mound for a quick word with Salazar, who was told to slow down and “break up the tempo.” Salazar did that, taking a step off the back of the mound to collect himself. “I was pitching too fast,” Salazar said. “I needed to change up my tempo.”
Both Gomes and Callaway’s suggestions helped, as Salazar struck out the side to strand all three runners in a long, albeit rewarding inning that Salazar admitted gave him confidence over his next three innings.
4) Salazar threw way too many pitches – 92 – over five innings, and knows that he’ll need to be more efficient moving forward.
“To go longer, I can’t waste so many pitches,” he said. “Just attack – and be smart.”
5) Carlos Santana said the obvious after his big game Tuesday, where he finished 4-for-5 and a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
“I love to play here,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite places to hit.”
Which is odd, because the four-year old park isn’t known for being a hitter’s park.
“They say it plays big, but not for me,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
6) Santana finished the game with two doubles and a mammoth home run that finally came down deep into the right-field bleachers. But after the game, reporters were just as interested in the perfect bunt single he laid down with two outs in the third inning.
“They going to give me that, I’m going to take the hit,” he said of beating the heavy defensive shift that the Twins employed against him.
7) The Twins seemed to be caught off guard by the move, but when it comes to Santana at Target Field, he practically owns the place anyway.
Santana’s two –out homer in the fifth inning that increased the Indians gap to 4-1 Tribe, also marked his 13th of his career. While struggling over the first two and a half months of the season, Santana said the solution that’s helped him heat up was to merely, “stop trying to do too much, stop trying to hit homers.”
Santana’s 4-for-5 night gave him a hit over his last seven games, a streak during which he’s hitting .355 (11-for-31) with three homers and eight RBI.
8) Nick Swisher (3-for-4 on the night) now owns multi-hit efforts in three of his last seven games at Target Field, including three of the last five. He set a season high with his third hit – a double in the Tribe’s four-run ninth inning.
“For a guy we hadn’t really seen didn’t know that well, so we watched a lot of tape on him earlier today and it seemed he just throws a lot of strikes early in the count, I’m a guy who most normally takes that first pitch. But maybe I’m just trying to let guys know it’s not that easy to get a strike on me early.”
9) Overshadowed by the offense of Santana and Swisher and the return of Salazar is the increasing production of right fielder David Murphy once again. Murphy started the season hitting well before falling into a month-long slump in June, batting .185 with seven RBI. But with eight more games to go in July, Murphy’s already surpassed that total with 10 RBI in July. Two of the runs came with the bases loaded in the Tribe’s three-run second inning, when Murphy delivered a two-run single.