Danny Salazar hadn’t put together more than two straight quality starts prior to the All-Star break before his current hot stretch helped bring his ERA to its lowest point since April.
He might be running into the Boston Red Sox at the wrong time, though.
The Cleveland Indians right-hander looks to cool Boston’s surging offense in the opener of a three-game series Monday night at Fenway Park.
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Salazar (10-6, 3.26 ERA) ranks among the major league leaders in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.24, but he’d had some trouble with consistency until recently.
His ERA is his best since it was 2.08 following his second start after improving to 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA over his last three with eight strikeouts over 7 1-3 innings of Wednesday’s 2-1 win against the New York Yankees.
Salazar has a 1.48 ERA while holding opponents to a .144 batting average during a stretch of six straight quality starts.
"The Yankees and Boston were the teams that everybody followed in the Dominican Republic, so I was nervous to go against (the Yankees for the first time)," Salazar said. "They’re a really good team and have a lot of really good hitters. I respect them."
The 25-year-old now gets his first chance to face the Red Sox (52-65), who registered 60 hits against Seattle over the weekend. They rallied from a 7-0 deficit Sunday to tie it in the ninth before falling 10-8 in 12 innings.
Torey Lovullo, managing his third game since John Farrell was diagnosed with lymphoma, decided not to pinch-run for David Ortiz with him on second base in the ninth. Ortiz was thrown out at the plate trying to score the winning run.
Brock Holt and Travis Shaw had three hits apiece and Xander Bogaerts homered while driving in three runs.
Boston’s 45 runs in the series were the most in a three-game set since the Mariners scored 47 against Toronto from April 14-16, 2000. The Red Sox’s 51 runs in their last four games are the most in such a stretch since they had 54 from Sept. 4-7, 2013.
Staying hot could be difficult against the Indians, whose starters have a 2.70 ERA while allowing two runs or fewer in six of their last seven.
Matt Barnes (3-2, 5.64) has been recalled from the minors to make his first major league start for Boston in place of Steven Wright, who is on the seven-day concussion list after being struck with a ball during batting practice last week.
The right-hander has made 21 relief appearances this season for the Red Sox.
"We’ve asked a lot of him," Lovullo told MLB’s official website. "His last start (for Triple-A Pawtucket), the word we got from player development that it was aggressive. He was throwing a lot of his pitches in the zone and doing a good job."
The Indians (54-62) have dropped three of four after Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Minnesota. Abraham Almonte drove in the lone run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning.
Jason Kipnis hasn’t played since Aug. 1 because of right shoulder inflammation, but manager Terry Francona said he could be activated from the disabled list for this contest. Michael Brantley, who missed the Twins series with a left shoulder issue, could be available to serve as DH.
The status of infielder Chris Johnson remains unclear after he sat out the last two games because of an infection he suspects was caused by an insect bite on his hand. He went to a Minnesota hospital and was given antibiotics.