CLEVELAND — After seeing him struggle in his three starts this season, Terry Francona is hoping to see a more confident Danny Salazar tonight as the Indians and Royals continue their four-game series at Progressive Field.
In 14 innings, Salazar has allowed 12 runs and has an ERA of 7.71. In his previous start last Thursday at Detroit, Salazar was effective for the first three innings, allowing only one hit but allowed five runs and five hits, including a three-run Ian Kinsler home run, in last 1 2/3 innings.
"I’d like to see him go out there with the mentality of this is where I belong and go attack hitters. Stay consistent, go inning to inning and just keep attacking," Francona said. "I think with anybody Danny had a fast ascent anyway but regardless of how much time you’ve spent in the minor leagues when you come to the big leagues and you are a starting pitcher there is a learning curve. You can’t get around it."
Salazar’s biggest problem has been against right-handed batters. He has a .278 average against them but this season they are 13 of 33 (.394) with four home runs and 11 RBI.
EARLY POWER: Prior to Monday, the earliest that Michael Brantley had reached four home runs on the season was 36 games. He has done that in 19 games this year and has three in the past five. His two-run shot on Monday marked the third time in his career he had homered in two straight games.
Last season it took Brantley 68 games to do it and two years ago he didn’t reach four home runs until 84 games.
When asked about the early power display, Brantley initially credited it "daddy strength" after daughter Mariah was born during the offseason before turning serious.
"I’m swinging at good pitches and a couple went out. I just feel like I’m growing as a hitter, getting smarter and putting better swings on the ball more consistently," he said.
STATE OF THE CENTRAL: The Tribe has now faced all of their division opponents at least once. Their record against Central foes is 4-6 but the margin between first-place Detroit and the last-place Indians is 1Â½ games. The Tigers are the only team above .500 at 9-7 with the White Sox (10-10), Royals (9-9) and Twins (9-9) at .500. Cleveland is 9-10, which is a win better than this time last year.
Said Francona about the division: "You look at the standings and everyone is bunched up which is fortunate for us because we didn’t get off to the greatest start. I would say it looks like everyone got better."
ANIMAL KINGDOM: The squirrel on the field for two innings on Monday’s game wasn’t the craziest animal experience Francona has seen during a baseball game. His happened in Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic in 1996 when there was a dog, goat and chicken in the outfield.
"There’s a pretty good chance that if you ask a question like that it happened in Winter Ball," Francona said.
It was also during the same game that Francona thought former Indian Julian Tavarez was supposed to be the starting pitcher before the bullpen coach informed Francona that Tavarez had already left for Cleveland.