April 24, 2014

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Indians make it seven losses in eight games as Danny Salazar lasts just four innings, offense gets a mere two hits vs. Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — Danny Salazar blew everyone away in his first two starts for the Cleveland Indians.
In start No. 3, it was Salazar who flamed out.

Then again, the Indians’ offense didn’t generate so much as a spark all night either.

The right-handed Salazar lasted just four innings in Cleveland’s 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Monday night. He was charged with three runs and three hits.

Salazar (1-1) gave up home runs to Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe to fall behind early, and was outshined by a 27-year-old, soft-tossing lefty who was making his second career start.

“I missed a couple of pitches, couple of fastballs, they got a chance to hit it,” Salazar said.

Dozier hit Salazar’s second pitch of the game out of the park and Plouffe followed with a two-run shot in the second inning.

Andrew Albers (2-0) took it from there. Mixing a fastball that topped out at 88 mph with a curveball that occasionally dipped to 65, Albers threw 102 pitches in a two-hitter.

Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes had the only hits for Cleveland, which has lost seven of eight in an August swoon that threatens to spoil such a promising start to the season.

Indians manager Terry Francona called a team meeting Saturday night after the young club lost its sixth straight game. But after rallying for a victory over the Angels on Sunday, they came out flat against
Albers and the Twins.

“I’m not a prototypical prospect,” said Albers, who had Tommy John surgery in 2009, was released by the Padres and was playing independent ball in Quebec in 2010. “I’m not a guy that goes out there and lights up a radar gun or throws devastating secondary stuff. But I can pitch a little bit and so far I’ve been having a little bit of success.”

Salazar most certainly is the prototypical prospect.

The 23-year-old Salazar blazed through Cleveland’s minor league system, striking out 129 in 21 outings.

That didn’t stop when he got called up. A fastball in the high 90s, a superb changeup and the benefit of facing hitters who have never seen him before helped him rack up 17 strikeouts and only two walks in his first two starts.

The velocity was there in start No. 3, but the command wasn’t. He appeared to be settling in after giving up the two homers, but he walked the bases loaded with one out in the fourth. He was able to wiggle out of the jam without allowing any runs, but Francona decided to pull him after 71 pitches.

Salazar threw 103 in his previous start, when he struck out 10 in 7⅔ innings of a no-decision against Detroit.

“He had the long fourth inning, so we decided, this kid’s going to be pitching for a long time, and we just thought, give him a little bit of a blow rather than let him grind through one more inning,” Francona said. “I don’t doubt he could have gotten through it. His stuff is very good. He’s willing to compete. This kid, he’s the real deal, he just needs experience. We just need to monitor right now.”

Salazar didn’t argue.

“Terry told me that I threw too many pitches my last game, so they have to take care of me, and that was it,” he said. “He has the last word.”

Actually, the last word belonged to Albers. He’s thrown 17⅓ straight scoreless innings to start a career that grows more improbable each time he takes the mound.

“He doesn’t miss very many spots, and that’s the key,” Cleveland’s Michael Brantley said. “He kept us off balance. He threw the ball well tonight.”

Notable

The Indians were shut out for the seventh time this season.
* The Indians placed INF Mark Reynolds on release waivers.
* Francona said LHP Scott Kazmir “is doing really well” after saying he had a “dead arm” in his previous start. The plan is for him to get an extra three days’ rest and start on Aug. 18 at Oakland.
* Twins press box attendant Peg Imhoff celebrated her 75th birthday on Monday night. Imhoff has worked for the Twins for 38 seasons.

TONIGHT

WHO: Cleveland vs. Minnesota
TIME: 8:10
WHERE: Target Field, Minneapolis
PITCHERS: McAllister (4-7, 3.90 ERA) vs. Deduno (7-5, 3.38)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM