MINNEAPOLIS: Indians manager Terry Francona said rookie right-hander Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12 ERA) will start for the Indians in the wild-card game Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
That’s just fine with Salazar, who started the season as the ace of the Double-A Aeros team in April.
“They trust me, and that makes me feel confident with myself,” Salazar said, shrugging off any indications of being nervous about the big start.
ROOKIE OF YEAR? — Francona has given young Indians pitcher Cody Allen his vote for American League Rookie of the Year. He just wishes he would have been more vocal about it before now.
With voting underway and nearly done, it’s easy for a reliever, not to mention one in a small media market, to get lost in the shuffle for the annual award.
“I’m not sure why he wouldn’t [be prominent in the mix],” Francona said. “I probably should’ve said more, because he’s pitched high-leverage innings pretty much almost from the start of the season — a lot of innings.”
Allen, 24, finished the regular season 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 70⅓ innings while only giving up runs in 16 of his team-high 77 appearances.
“When you have a guy you can go to in a leverage situation who can bail you out of innings, it makes the whole bullpen better,” Francona said of Allen, whose 88 strikeouts rank fifth-best among all AL relievers. “Obviously, you’ve got to have a guy in the ninth to finish the game. But more often than not, the game is won or lost in the seventh or eighth.”
Allen’s innings total ranks second most in the American League and is the second-highest single-season total in franchise history. During the 2005 season, Bob Howry made 79 appearances.
ON SECOND THOUGHT — Over the years, veteran slugger Jason Giambi has heard the phrase “every game’s important” more times than he can count. Yet, he wasn’t lost on the irony of that coming true for the Tribe.
“You hear every manager say at the start of every year that every game’s important,” he said. “You think, ‘Come on, you play 162 of them!’ Then you get to the end of the season and you’re looking back and thinking, ‘How did we lose that one game?’ ”
WEAK? WHAT ARE YOU CALLING WEAK? — In response to those who have criticized the Indians’ “weak” schedule down the stretch in which the Indians have gone 30-8 against the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, consider that Texas bolstered its record late with a 31-6 run against the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
SOLID DOWN THE STRETCH — At 4½ games out of the second American League wild-card spot when September began, the Indians went 21-6 down the stretch before finally taking over sole possession of the first wild card Saturday. … With Jason Kipnis’ seventh-inning steal of second base Sunday, he had back-to-back 30-steal seasons.
— Stephanie Storm