Mistake pitch sets up crucial K for Salazar
Indians righty leaves fastball up for strike, then follows with changeup for the out
CLEVELAND -- The offering that set up Danny Salazar's biggest pitch of the night was a mistake.
Runners were on second and third with two outs in the seventh inning of the Indians' 2-1 victory at Progressive Field on Wednesday night, and Yankees outfielder Chris Young was at the plate.
Salazar got ahead of Young, 0-1, with a 96-mph fastball, spotted low and away and on the black. Young fouled it off. What Salazar intended to do next was execute the same pitch. What he actually did was leave a fastball up.
For most pitchers, a mistake in that situation would cost them two runs, or more, blowing the lead and ending their night. For Salazar, it earned him a strike and set up his coup de grâce, a pitch that sent Tribe fans into a frenzy.
Turns out mistakes aren't so bad when you throw 97.
Young fouled off the misplaced heater left up in the zone, setting up the 86-mph changeup spotted perfectly low and away that Young swung through. Salazar and catcher Roberto Perez each offered respective fist pumps after the strikeout as they walked off the field to raucous applause.
"The second fastball, I actually didn't try to throw it up," Salazar said. "I was just trying to throw hard and outside, but he swung and gave me the next pitch."
The calls were all made by Perez. Salazar never called him off.
"All night, I was following Perez," Salazar said. "I didn't want to shake him."
The respect that Perez has quickly earned from his teammates as a backup to starter Yan Gomes permeates throughout the clubhouse. Pitchers rarely alter from his calls and consistently praise his game-calling and defensive abilities.
"We have two of the best, if not the best, defensive catchers in baseball," closer Cody Allen said. "Roberto works his tail off and he's ready when called upon."
Salazar and Perez kept Yankees hitters off balance for 7 1/3 innings with a steady diet of fastballs and changeups, mixed in with the occasional slider or curve. Salazar struck out eight and allowed one run on a homer in the second inning off the bat of Brian McCann.
"It seems like when Danny does that, he reaches back for another gear," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Salazar has thrown at least six innings in each of his last six starts, and he has pitched into the eighth in half of those. Over that stretch, he's allowed just seven earned runs in 42 2/3 innings (1.48 ERA) with 43 strikeouts.
"Early on, there were some fly balls and fortunately I think the ballpark played pretty big, but, man, you look up in the eighth inning and he's still pitching, giving up one," Francona said. "We'll take that every time."