For all the trouble Danny Salazar tiptoed in and out of in his return to the Indians starting rotation Tuesday against the Twins at Target Field, the right-hander showed plenty of poise extracting himself without much harm each time.
Despite walking the bases loaded in the second inning, Salazar went on to limit the host to a run on six hits and three walks over five-plus innings of the Indians 8-2 victory. He also struck out six batters – three of which came in the second to strand the bases loaded - and threw 63 of his 92 pitches for strikes.
But even with Salazar’s gutsy performance in the win, the fact that he labored through five innings with base runners in all save for his final inning indicated the kid who shined in his major league debut last season isn’t quite back to form yet – even after a two-month primer in the minors.
Yet, it certainly helped Salazar to have some early run support to work with after the Indians offense staked him to a three-run lead in the second inning. Against Twins starter Yohan Pino, the Tribe’s batsmen quickly loaded the bases with no outs, all three eventually coming around to score.
Carlos Santana led off with a double into the right field corner, Lonnie Chisenhall reached after being hit by a pitch and Nick Swisher singled. With one out, David Murphy smacked a two-run single that put the Indians on the board. Mike Aviles, filling in at shortstop for injured starter Asdrubal Cabrera, followed with a sacrifice fly that allowed Swisher to jog home before Pino got out of the jam.
Twins got on the board in the fourth inning thanks to a Sam Fuld sacrifice fly. But the Indians got the run right back in the top of the fifth. Santana smashed his15th home run of the season - an absolute bomb deep into the right field bleachers - with two outs and on a full count to increase the Tribe lead to 4-1.
Indians rookie left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett took over for Salazar in the sixth inning after he gave up a leadoff single up the middle to Kurt Suzuki. Crockett needed just seven pitches to retire the Twins in a hitless inning of work before turning the game over to Scott Atchison.
The veteran Atchison allowed the host to cut the lead in half on a Brian Dozier home run into the left field corner just fair of the foul pole. The homer marked the second baseman’s career-high 19th of the season.
Another reliable Tribe bullpen member struggled to get his job done as well when left-hander Marc Rzepczynski dished up a pinch-hit triple to Eduardo Nunez with two out as the Twins mounted a rally. But Indians closer Cody Allen came out for what could have been a four-out save, quelling the threat by striking out another pinch hitter in Chris Parmalee.
But the Indians kept Allen from having to come back out, erasing the save situation by piling on four ninth-inning runs against Twins reliever Matt Guerrier. Swisher started the rally with his third hit of the night and Yan Gomes drove him home with a RBI double. A Chris Dickerson single scored another pair. Santana smashed his second double into the right field for the final run of the game, and Carlos Carrasco pitched a scoreless ninth inning.