The Minnesota Twins were no match for a hot Danny Salazar tonight as the 27-year-old continued to pitch well after his return from the disabled list in an 8-1 Indians’ win Tuesday night in Minnesota.
Salazar may have hit the DL on June 3 with a 5.40 ERA through 55 innings, but he’s since thrown 32.1 innings of exceptional baseball since his return to the rotation on July 22. He sliced and diced his way through a resurgent Twins line-up tonight on his way to a final line of seven innings with just one run allowed on three hits and ten strikeouts. Perhaps most importantly, he did not walk a single batter in a game for the second time in his last five starts.
His line in five starts since his return:
2-0, 32.1 IP, 5 ER, 9 BB, 46 K for a 1.39 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. Only one home run allowed and no more than two runs in any start. It’s a shame the Indians only put up three total runs in his three no-decisions and then overcompensated with 17 runs in the other two.
Tonight’s game was just as good for the offense. Carlos Santana got the scoring started with a game-tying solo home run in the 4th off Bartolo Colon (4-10, 6.70). Jason Kipnis and Edwin Encarnacion kept the good times rolling in the fifth with a pair of solo shots and the Indians would never trail again.
For Encarnacion, it was his 27th home run of the season and his fifth in the last five games. If we’re seeing the start of an Edwin hot streak, it’s at a great time to help pick up the offensive slack we’ve seen come and go from the entire line-up this season.
The Indians weren’t done hitting home runs, though. Up 3-1 in the 7th, the Twins went to Buddy Boshers with two outs and nobody on. All Boshers did was walk Jay Bruce (followed by Bruce’s first stolen base of the season!), allow an infield hit to Santana, and then watch as Austin Jackson put the game on ice with a big three run shot to make it 6-1. It was not Paul Molitor’s most inspired bullpen decision.
Oh, and then Carlos Santana hit his 18th home run, a two run shot, in the 9th. Santana reached base all five times he batted tonight and now has seven hits in his last three games. See Edwin’s comment above about well-needed hot streaks.
All in all, it was pretty much a perfect night for the Tribe. They knock the Twins down to third place in the Central at six games back, get more encouragement that Salazar’s return is for real, and score eight runs all on home runs.
They’ll do it all again tomorrow night at 8:10 ET when Carlos Carrasco (11-5, 3.83) faces Kyle Gibson (6-9, 6.02).
Keep Austin Weird
Austin Jackson’s 3-for-4 tonight gives him 21 hits in 16 games since his return from the DL. He has slashed .362/.413/.552 in 63 plate appearances since July 25. Count me as one who was unexcited to see Austin brought in at the start of the year and Rajai Davis let go.
Compare their 2016 seasons:
Davis: .249/.306/.388 in 495 PA. 23 doubles, 12 home runs and a league-leading 43 stolen bases at the age of 35.
Jackson: .254/.318/.343 in 203 PA. 12 doubles, 0 home runs and 2 stolen bases at age 29.
And now 2017:
Davis: .236/.294/.358 in 314 PA. 16 doubles, 5 home runs and 25 stolen bases.
Jackson: .312/.383/.490 in 180 PA. 12 doubles, 4 home runs and 1 stolen base.
Don’t get me wrong, I will always greet Rajai at Hohokam Park or wherever I find him in Spring Training with a “GAME SEVEN OFF AROLDIS CHAPMAN!!!” cheer, but I like the pop that Jackson provides along with the defensive flexibility.
A Five Tool Player Has a Hole in His Toolbelt
Ok ok, so not everything went perfectly tonight. Bradley Zimmer is still 0-for-August. Specifically, his 0-3 tonight put him at 0-32 in August. It’s dragged his OPS from .813 down to .729.
He’s still been worth a nice 1.4 WAR in his first 78 Major League games and his defense can likely carry his value through an extended slump. But the Indians already have an offensive zero who leans on defense in Yan Gomes. And Roberto Perez. And Gio Urshela.
That’s a lot of easy outs at the end of the order.