Second Thoughts Game #92: Blue Jays 2, Indians 4
Two things dominated the pre-game commentary for this game. The first being the major league debut of Danny Salazar, and the second being the chance to grab a series win against Toronto as the All-Star break approaches. Combined in AA and AAA this season Salazar had a 3.08 ERA in 76 innings and 100 strikeouts. He was on a strict pitch count (85-90 pitches) in this game.
The Whole Nine
1. Despite the pitch count restrictions, Salazar gave the Indians six great innings of work in his major league debut. He was composed and dominant throughout this start, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and touching 99 several times on the radar gun. The best part of this might have been the offense putting two runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth to get him a much deserved win.
2. This part deserves its own bullet – after Salazar departed the Indians bullpen was able to hold the lead for Salazar and the offense. Chris Perez was shaky in a three-run save opportunity, but Rich Hill and especially Cody Allen looked great in this game.
3. It doesn’t seem that Salazar is much of an option for the rotation this year considering that the Indians are monitoring his workload as he continues to progress from Tommy John surgery in 2010. If he continues to pitch well though you do have to wonder if they’ll make the decision to move him into a bullpen role for the stretch run. I don’t have any doubt that he’d be dominant in a late inning role and the Indians could obviously use his arm somewhere on their staff.
4. One final Salazar note: If you ignore the existence of Floyd Weaver, the only two other Cleveland Indian hurlers to strike out more than seven batters in their Major League debut are Herb Score and Luis Tiant. That’s some good company to be with in Indians lore.
5. Lonnie Chisenhall had the big RBI hit in the sixth inning on a bloop single that ended up scoring two runs after a throwing error by Rajai Davis. Chisenhall’s slash line in July is .259/.355/.799 and more importantly has four walks to just three strikeouts. We’re still seeing some bad at-bats out of him, but he’s progressed from earlier in the season and he’s still a talented enough offensive player to greatly impact the offense in the second half of the season.
6. I think it’s about time to begin discussing what’s been a somewhat disappointing year thus far for Michael Bourn. I thought the Indians got a tremendous bargain when they signed him, but right now he’s underperforming by a good margin offensively. If the season ended today his walk rate and strikeout rate would be career worsts, and his ISO would be his worst since 2008. The only reason his numbers look okay is because he’s posted a .381 BABIP, which would be a career high. His defense still grades out as the best by position on the Indians, but this is a guy that they need more from offensively. (Editors note: also, where are the stolen bases this year from Bourn?)
7. I see Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Asdrubal Cabrera as the keys offensively for the second half. All three are underperforming right now based on expectations entering the year. Swisher seems to be coming on, but Cabrera and Bourn at the top of the lineup are keys. I find it doubtful that the team is going to acquire a bat at the deadline, and there’s no help looming in AAA, so what you see is what you get. An improved offense has to come from the guys playing every day.
8. In an effort to avoid saying anything negative about the Indians bullpen in this column, it should be noted that as bad as Perez looked after he got the first two outs in the ninth inning, his appearance in this game was the first run he’s given up since he returned from the disabled list (8 IP, 4 saves). It rarely looks pretty, but the Indians concerns are more about getting the ball to Perez versus what happens when it gets there.
9. With the win in this game, the Indians are now 7-2 in rubber games on the year.
There are not enough superlatives to describe how good Danny Salazar was in this game. He had as good of a Major League debut as I can remember from an Indians starter. Even when he had just a bit of trouble in the sixth inning he was calm, relaxed, and able to throw all of his pitches exactly where he wanted them. He’s really burst onto the scene as an option for the Indians rotation.