Salazar brilliant in his MLB debut, Tribe defeats Blue Jays 4-2
Rookie tosses a no-hitter through five innings, picks up first big league win
Offensively, the arm the 23-year-old Dominican native was no match for Toronto as the Tribe defeated the Blue Jays 4-1 to win the three-game series.
“I waited seven years for this day,” Salazar said. “When I was in the bullpen, I was a little nervous. Once I got to the dugout and seen all the guys, I was just thinking, ‘I’ve been preparing myself for this,’ so I didn’t have to be nervous.”
Salazar was near perfect in his big league debut Thursday afternoon, tossing a no-hitter through the first five innings. It wasn’t until the sixth that the hard throwing right-hander allowed his first hit and run.
Touching between 96-99 MPH on his fastball, Salazar finished the afternoon yielding just two hits and one walk, striking out seven.
“From the first pitch of the game he had his poise,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Obviously he attacked the zone with above average pitches across the board, and when there were runners, he controlled the running game. His tempo was quick, but not fast. He got the ball and threw strikes.”
Salazar becomes the first Indians starter since Tiant to strikeout at least seven batters in a big league debut. Tiant struck out 11 in his MLB debut with the Tribe back on July 19, 1964.
“That was exciting for the organization,” Francona said. ”I refer to the glass being half full, and on days like today, that’s why I say that. He was terrific.”
Ranked by Baseball America this offseason as the No. 6 prospect in the Tribe system, Salazar went 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 10 starts at Triple-A Columbus prior to his start. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2006, the Dominican native had Tommy John surgery back in 2010.
“I’ve been throwing on a pitch count,” Salazar said. “This was the first time I threw six innings in a game the whole season. After the game, all the guys in here threw beers over me. It was a big day for me.”
The Cleveland offense didn't give the hard throwing right-hander much breathing room, scoring just one run through the first five innings off Toronto starter R.A. Dickey.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” center fielder Michael Brantley said of the knuckleballer. “It’s a battle each and every time. You don’t know what the ball is doing so you just go up there and battle as hard as you can.”
Ending a 0-for-20 skid at the plate on Wednesday, Cabrera went 1-for-4 Thursday with his second homer off Dickey this season.
If fans wouldn’t have known better, they would have probably thought it was Salazar not Dickey who took home the Cy Young hardware last season.
“I mean, I threw five innings without a hit,” Salazar said. “That’s part of the game. When I steped on the mound I felt comfortable.”
As his teammate, Brantley witnessed the success of Salazar in spring training.
“He has a phenomenal arm,” Brantley said. “He came in today and challenged a lot of people. He threw a lot of fastballs and got us in the dugout quick.”
Knotted at one apiece in the sixth, Cleveland finally broke the 1-1 tie off Dickey.
Loading up the bases with one out, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall sent home two runs on a RBI bloop basehit to left field. The clutch hit scored two runs thanks to an airmailed throw by Rajai Davis, allowing Ryan Raburn to score on the play.
A two-out RBI single by Colby Rasmus was not enough for the Blue Jays to mount a comeback, as Perez picked up his 11th save on the season.
Despite hurling six brilliant innings and notching his first victory in his big league debut, Salazar understands this was just a spot start for him.
“It’s their decision,” Salazar said. “I know they will call for me in the future, so I don’t have to worry about that.
His manager agreed.
“Whether he pitched like he did today or got hit around, it wouldn’t have dictated his future,” Francona said. “We wanted him to go out and try to win a game for us, which he did very well.
We think this kid has got a very bright future.”
The win gives Cleveland (48-44) the series victory over Toronto, sliding up to just 2.5 games behind the first place Detroit Tigers in the A.L. Central.
Looking ahead at the All-Star break coming up next week, Brantley knows it’s important to finish the first half strong.
“It’s important to finish every series, to finish every game and to finish every out,” he said. “It’s preached in this locker room and we’ve done a great job of doing that. We’re going to continue to do that the rest of the year.”
Notes: In order to make room for Salazar on the 25-man roster, the Indians sent reliever Preston Guilmet back down to Triple-A Columbus. Making his major league debut on Wednesday against Toronto, the right-hander pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning recording one strikeout.
Cleveland is now 192-192 all-time against the Blue Jays.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The bullpen finally did a decent job despite a very shaky outing by Perez - two hits and a walk, and he escaped with the final out being a line drive to the warning track. His velocity isn't all the way back yet after an arm problem put him on the DL. He's not in Bob Wickman territory yet, but there are some smoke and mirrors involved. This year he'll get a rest over the All-Star break, so maybe he can come back stronger in the second half. The cops confiscating his weed won't hurt.