CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Any concerns over whether or not Danny Salazar can return to form for the stretch run can now officially be tabled. So can any concerns about the Indians needing a third starter.
Not only did the right-hander show the form for the third game in a row that made him an All-Star in 2016, he is again showing that his arm health is sustainable.
Salazar labored through the top of the first inning, allowing three of the first four to reach, including an RBI double off of the bat of Didi Gregorius. But he would escape the inning with just the one run, and did not allow another through seven total innings of work, surrendering four hits and striking out a career-high 12.
Plagued by arm health since his first All-Star selection a year ago, Salazar has shown the ability to keep his velocity in the high-90s. The 27-year old touched 98.4 mph with his fastball, sitting at an average of 95 mph over 77 pitches.
Manager Terry Francona was interested in the higher number coming later in the day.
“That’s good to see, especially late in the game like that,” Francona said. “When he’s nearing the end of his game, his last pitch I think was 98 and there was some purpose behind it. That was good to see. He pitches like that, we’re all going to be happy.”
Salazar kept Yankees hitters off-balance, racking up 14 swinging strikes en route to that career-high 12 Ks. Seven of those came by way of the four-seam fastball, and at least 11 of them came outside of the zone.
Before landing on the disabled list in early June, Salazar enticed opposing hitters to swing at 30.7% of balls outside the zone. That number jumped to 34% since returning thanks to his two previous starts, and it will only rise after Saturday.
His 16.6% swinging strike rate is the highest of his career to date.
Again, while Salazar’s split-fingered changeup is the catalyst for his success and carries his best pitch value at 5.8, the velocity is what has shown his manager and teammates that these kinds of outings will be sustained.
Catcher Yan Gomes noted the absence of sudden declines in Salazar’s harder pitches, thanks to a healthy arm.
“You don’t see the 89-90 out of nowhere, 89-90 is usually an offspeed,” he said. “I think that was probably something with his health or whatever was going on. But now, you see that young Danny just letting his arm eat. You see some guys out there having some silly at-bats against him.”
The Kansas City Royals have given up a lot of ground to the Indians in the past few days, or at least the opportunity to gain it, dropping five of seven.
The Indians entered Saturday losers of four of seven, but with a chance to extend their AL Central lead to four games. The Royals and Mariners were rained out.