Thursday, July 11, 2013 4:17 pm
Salazar wins debut as Indians down Jays 4-2
By TOM WITHERSAP Sports Writer
"I didn't know I would get this," he said at his locker.
Salazar began to fold it in half and tuck the card into his backpack when he was stopped by clubhouse manager Tony Amato.
It was the rookie's only mistake.
Salazar pitched six superb innings and won his major league debut, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.
Salazar, who began the season in Double-A ball, allowed just one run and two hits. The right-hander didn't give up a hit until the sixth, struck out seven and showed poise from his first pitch to his last.
The hard-throwing 23-year-old was shocked at being called up, but he pitched with the nerves of a seasoned veteran and gave the Indians a much-needed strong outing.
"He was terrific," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That can be what he is. The kid has special stuff."
Salazar was brought up for one start. He's headed back to Triple-A Columbus, but it may not be long before Salazar is back in Cleveland on a more permanent basis.
"We think the kid has a very bright future," Francona said.
Chris Perez gave up a run in a shaky ninth but got his 11th save as the Indians beat knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (8-10) for the second time this season.
Asdrubal Cabrera homered in the first off Dickey and Lonnie Chisenhall drove in a run in Cleveland's two-run sixth.
Jose Bautista hit an RBI double for Toronto's only run off Salazar, who admitted being nervous during his pregame warmup in the bullpen.
But once he was on the mound, Salazar was unflappable - and for a while, unhittable.
Unleashing a fastball that registered 99 mph on the stadium radar gun, he coasted through the first five innings, striking out seven and not letting the Blue Jays get many good swings. A few of his pitches were way out of the strike zone, but just when it appeared he might come unraveled, Salazar settled down.
Salazar's seven strikeouts were the most by a Cleveland pitcher in his debut since Luis Tiant struck out 11 New York Yankees on July 19, 1964.
"We couldn't do anything with Salazar," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's got a great arm. I tip my hat to the young kid."
Salazar held Toronto without a hit until the sixth, when Josh Thole, batting just .108 slapped a 1-2 pitch into left. Salazar received a nice ovation from Cleveland fans, who haven't seen many quality starts lately from the Indians' rotation. Munenori Kawasaki sacrificed and Salazar retired Jose Reyes on a liner to second.
Bautista then tied it 1-1 by ripping an RBI double to left. Salazar recovered and got the final out before heading to the dugout, where he was warmly greeted by teammates. Salazar took some pressure off a tired Indians bullpen dragging itself to the All-Star break.
Salazar said he prayed the Indians would score in the bottom inning to get him a win, and Cleveland, which squandered some early threats against Dickey, came through with two runs.
"I've been waiting for this moment for seven years," said Salazar, who was signed by the Indians in 2006 and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010. "I threw five innings without hits. After the game, all the guys were throwing beers all over me. That's fantastic."
Salazar was given two souvenir balls: his first strikeout and the final out. He said "everyone" in his hometown of Cabrera, Dominican Republic gathered in a local park to watch him pitch.
Rich Hill worked a hitless seventh, Cody Allen struck out the side in the eighth and Perez allowed Colby Rasmus' RBI single and put the tying run at first before getting Rajai Davis on a liner to left for the final out.
The Indians pushed two runs across in the sixth against Dickey to take a 3-1 lead and make Salazar a winner.
Chisenhall came through with a blooper to left with the bases loaded that hung in the air long enough that the runners had to freeze.
When it dropped, Michael Brantley sprinted home and left fielder Davis, thinking he had a chance at a forceout at home, sailed his throw to the backstop. The ball ricocheted toward the plate, and Ryan Raburn scored from second before the Blue Jays could retrieve it.
Cleveland tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on Carlos Santana's RBI triple.
Cabrera, who had two hits on Wednesday to snap an 0-for-20 slump, drove an 0-2 pitch from Dickey over the wall in right in the first to make it 1-0.
NOTES: Last year at the break, Dickey was 12-1 with the New York Mets. ... Perez is 5-for-5 in saves since coming off the disabled list on June 27. ... Indians 1B Nick Swisher, bothered by a sore left shoulder, didn't start. He's in a 21-of-101 (.208) slump. ... Blue Jays INF Brett Lawrie (sprained left ankle) played his second straight game at second base on a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. Lawrie has played third since joining the Blue Jays in 2011, but the team is considering a position change when he comes off the disabled list. ... Reynolds went 0 for 3 and is batting a major-league low .165 (21 of 127) since May 30.