CLEVELAND — It has taken four months and a stint in Columbus, but Danny Salazar might finally be developing into the pitcher the Indians hoped he would be at the start of the season.
In his third start since being called up from Columbus, Salazar allowed one unearned run in six innings as the Indians rolled to a 12-2 win over the Rangers on Friday night at Progressive Field.
Salazar allowed four runs with four strikeouts and three walks. After going 1-4 with a 5.53 ERA in his first eight starts, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his past three. It is also the first time in his career that Salazar has won three consecutive starts.
"What I really like is from the get go he is throwing his best stuff. He’s not easing into the game," manager Terry Francona said. "Tonight he lost the strike zone for a couple of hitters but he reeled it back in and got out of that."
Salazar walked the first two Texas batters in the second but he struck out J.P. Arencibia and Leonys Martin popped out to third. Robinson Chirinos singled but David Murphy made a great throw from right as Adrian Beltre was tagged out at the plate.
Murphy was also partially responsible for Texas’ first run in the fifth. Chirinos led off the inning with a double to right but Murphy misplayed it, which allowed Chrinos to take third. He would score on a Rougned Odor ground out.
"Right now I feel like during the game I can make adjustments if I need it. Every time I’m attacking the zone," Salazar said. "When I gave up the two walks, I was trying to be too aggressive with my delivery. I’m able to stay back a little bit and go straight to home plate with my delivery. I’m keeping everything down and my secondary pitches are more effective."
Salazar has 17 strikeouts in his last three starts but the encouraging number is six, which are the walks. He also hasn’t allowed a home run after giving up eight earlier in the season.
If the Indians are going to entertain any hopes of making a run the last two months, they are going to need Salazar to continue to step up. With Justin Masterson’s trade to St. Louis and Corey Kluber officially taking over the mantle of staff ace, who becomes the No. 2 starter is up in the air. Right now it appears to be between Salazar and Trevor Bauer.
The rest of the rotation remains murky. T.J. House will be called up and take the hill on Saturday while Josh Tomlin is likely to take over the spot vacated by Zach McAllister being sent down to Columbus.
"I think with Danny it’s not just two months but his future. We’ve got days off coming up and we may try to manage the workload a little bit. There’s that balance we’re trying to strike," Francona said.
Besides Salazar, the Indians offense finally broke out of their slumber. Murphy went 4 for 4, Michael Brantley had three hits and Lonnie Chisenhall homered.
"We’ve played so many close games but it is really good to have some breathing room for a night, get some young guys in and not have stressful innings," Francona said.