Salazar one of baseball's best pitchers so far in 2016
The Cleveland Indians are still stuck in an offensive lull, but performances like Trevor Bauer's Tuesday allow them to compete regardless.
Another dominant start could be on tap Wednesday with Danny Salazar on the mound for the series finale with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Cleveland (16-14) won 4-0 Tuesday behind seven strong innings by Trevor Bauer, with Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen completing the shutout in the team's 17th victory in 22 meetings.
The Indians are batting .200 over their last four contests, though Salazar (3-2, 1.91 ERA) may not need much help. He's been one of baseball's most dominant pitchers and comes off his perhaps his most impressive outing of the season, matching a season high with nine strikeouts over 7 2-3 shutout innings in a 7-1 win against Kansas City on Friday.
Salazar's 2.58 ERA ranks fourth among all pitchers with at least 20 starts dating back to July 10, trailing only Jake Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Quintana. This season, opponents are putting the ball in play on only 29.2 percent of swings against Salazar, the second-lowest number in the majors behind Jose Fernandez.
"The more you go out there and play, the more experience you get, the more you grow as a player," Salazar told MLB's official website.
The right-hander limited Houston to two earned runs with 16 strikeouts over 13 1-3 innings spanning two 2014 matchups.
Houston (13-21) had scored 45 runs while winning five of seven prior to going 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position in Tuesday's loss. The Astros' batting average in those situations fell to .167 in defeats compared to .305 in wins.
They'll counter Salazar with Doug Fister (3-3, 4.54), who has strung together four consecutive quality starts since surrendering six runs in a 6-2 loss to Kansas City on April 14. He didn't allow a home run in either of his last two outings after yielding five in his first four games.
Fister was 5-3 in 14 meetings with Cleveland from 2009-13 while with Seattle and Detroit, including a 5-1 mark and 2.37 ERA in the last nine.
The Indians are hoping Tuesday's performance by Jason Kipnis helps him continue to get on track. Kipnis, who entered the evening with a .693 OPS, had two hits including a triple during his third multi-hit performance in eight games.
Cleveland likely won't see the return of Michael Brantley to its lineup until Friday against Minnesota. Brantley, who is hitting .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, got Tuesday off and will likely sit out Wednesday as well.
"We might have gone a little too far, too much, too fast," manager Terry Francona said. "I didn't want to do that, but we probably did."
Meanwhile, Houston was without catcher Jason Castro after he went on the paternity list for the birth of his first child. Erik Kratz was 0 for 2 while starting behind the plate Tuesday.