CLEVELAND — The scuffling Indians made plenty of mistakes Friday night — as they were prone to do for much of the first month of the season. Only this time — in a new month — they were able to hit their way out of all of them.
Equaling its highest run output of the season, Cleveland slugged its way to a 12-5 victory over the White Sox in the opener of a three-game Central Division series at Progressive Field.
“It was a good night offensively for us, and we needed it,” said manager Terry Francona, whose team used a five-run first inning to ignite the offensive fireworks and snap a six-game skid. “We answered tonight. When they scored, we answered. We kept at them, offensively. We had a real good approach early. They kind of got right back in the game, but then we kept swinging it, and we did some really good things, offensively.”
The Indians outhit the White Sox 13-10, with four players — Mike Aviles, Yan Gomes, Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana — recording multihit games.
The offensive output made a winner for the first time out of Danny Salazar, who allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks, while striking out six over five innings.
Defensive miscues, a problem all season, made things difficult on Salazar. Second baseman Elliot Johnson, who was filling in for an injured Jason Kipnis, dropped two throws at second base and Gomes had a passed ball that allowed a run to score.
“I thought he did an outstanding job of damage control,” Francona said of Salazar. “A couple leadoff walks and a couple balls we didn’t turn at second, and once he had his hands full, I thought he really threw the ball well. There was one inning where, bases loaded, nobody out, 3-0 count and he ends up pitching out of it. That takes pretty exceptional stuff to do that.”
Salazar (1-3, 5.93 ERA) started the season slow, but has pitched effectively his last two times out.
“Tonight and in the outing at San Francisco, I’m trying to be consistent with the same arm speed to every pitch,” Salazar said. “My slider tonight was great. I kept getting ground balls and double plays.”
The Indians batted around against John Danks in the first, then added single runs in the second and third after Chicago scored three times in the second.
Santana, who has been one of Cleveland’s biggest slumpers, belted his fourth homer in the second after driving in a run with a double in the first. He is 6-for-15 with eight RBIs over his last four games.
“He’s such a good hitter, and the good part is when he gets hot it’s not just singles,” Francona said. “He’ll hit the ball out of the ballpark, he’ll hit the ball in the gap. He’ll still take his walks, but he can be a big run producer for us.”
Brantley hit a solo shot in the fifth inning, then added a two-run single in Cleveland’s four-run sixth for a 3-for-5 night. He leads the Indians with five homers and 23 RBIs.
Prior to the game, Indians pitchers Cody Allen and Corey Kluber wore chicken outfits while shagging balls in the outfield. If it played a part in shaking the losing funk, Francona is on board.
“I don’t care what takes credit. It was nice to shake hands,” he said. “We needed that.”
Not everyone wearing an Indians uniform was in a celebratory mood. First baseman Nick Swisher used his postgame interview as a platform to voice his displeasure at how he and his teammates have been treated by the media during a disappointing start.
“There have been a lot of bad things written about this team in the papers,” said Swisher, who is batting .214 for the last-place Indians. “We pay attention to all that stuff. So for us, we have to do it together. We have to band together and figure this thing out.
“It’s all about the wins and losses. That’s what it really boils down to. A lot of other people think about a lot of other things. I think for us, all we do is care about those wins and losses. Last year, we had such a great year. We changed the attitude of this organization.”
WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago White Sox
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Masterson (0-1, 4.84 ERA) vs. Carroll (1-0, 1.23)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM