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Perez homers, Salazar fans 10 as Indians top Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Danny Salazar struck out 10 batters in his first start of the season, and was backed by a solo homer from catcher Roberto Perez to help lead the Indians to a 4-2 win over the Twins on Saturday afternoon at Target Field.

"That was really impressive," Perez said. "That was the Danny I know from past years. He was attacking the zone early. He was really aggressive with his fastball. He was overpowering those guys, and then he worked with that splitty off his fastball. He was really effective."

Salazar, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus to make the start, went six-plus innings, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks. His 10 strikeouts matched a career high. The runs came on an RBI double from Torii Hunter in the second, and a leadoff solo homer from Kurt Suzuki in the seventh.

Salazar outdueled Twins right-hander Phil Hughes, who surrendered four runs on eight hits and a walk over 6 2/3 innings. Perez opened the scoring with a deep blast to left-center in the second before the Indians took the lead on a sacrifice fly from Lonnie Chisenhall in the fourth. Cleveland added two insurance runs in the seventh with Jason Kipnis connecting on a two-out RBI single to knock Hughes from the game. Reliever Caleb Thielbar came in and uncorked a wild pitch to allow another run to score, which was charged to Hughes.

"All of his starts to this point, he's kept us in the game," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Hughes. "He hung in there. But Salazar was tough. We had trouble with the velocity and kept expanding the zone up, which he can do to you."

Hughes can't get through seventh: Hughes was just one out away from getting through the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead, but gave up a two-out hit to Kipnis to give the Indians an insurance run. Thielbar replaced Hughes, but promptly threw a wild pitch to allow another run to score. The two-run seventh helped spoil an otherwise solid start from Hughes, who has yet to turn in a dominant outing this season.

Video: [email protected]: Hughes allows four runs over 6 2/3 innings

"I just think I don't have my best fastball yet," Hughes said. "I don't have my best cutter command. And last year, those were two big things I could lean. So until those two come around, I have to mix other things in." More >

Perez power: The Indians have struggled in terms of slugging percentage out of the gates, though one reason is the loss of catcher Yan Gomes (right knee). His replacement, Perez, launched a towering, 435-foot home run to open the third inning to put Cleveland up, 1-0. Perez's two home runs lead the team in that category. The young catcher finished 3-for-4 on the afternoon.

"He's a big, strong kid," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think that was one of the things we liked about him as a backup catcher. He may not hit .300, but there's always that [threat]. He swings hard and he's a strong kid, so there's always that possibility there."

Video: [email protected]: Perez hits a towering solo shot in the 3rd

Hunter gets Twins on the board: After getting a day off on Friday, Hunter came through with a game-tying RBI single in the second inning off Salazar. Hunter's rocket to right field went high off the wall for a double, as he just missed out on his first homer of the season. Suzuki homered to lead off the seventh to knock Salazar from the game, but it wasn't enough against Salazar.

"We saw him a number of times last year, but he was a completely different pitcher," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. "He threw a lot of changeups, and probably threw only a handful last year."

Video: [email protected]: Hunter hits an RBI double to center

Welcome back: Salazar's command was all over the map in Spring Training, leading to a season-opening stint at Triple-A. Right away on Saturday, the hard-throwing righty showed off the strides he has made in recent weeks. The first batter Salazar faced, Danny Santana, went down swinging on an 87-mph split-change that dropped under his bat. All 10 of Salazar's strikeouts came via swings.

"My changeup was good," Salazar said. "Perez and I were on the same page mixing those two pitches. That was great. The fastball was down." More >

Video: [email protected]: Salazar fans 10 in six innings vs. Twins

"Some guys just come out of Spring Training and they're not quite ready yet. Maybe I need three extra weeks of Spring Training." -- Hughes, who has a career 6.04 ERA in 31 career starts in March and April.

"I just think that Mossy, you're going to look up and you're going to see a bunch of home runs. They may come in spurts, but he's still taking good swings. As long as he's doing that, he'll be just fine." -- Francona, on Brandon Moss, who is batting .143, but doubled to the wall in right on Saturday

When Kipnis pulled a pitch into right field for an RBI single in the seventh inning, it snapped an 0-for-16 slump for the Tribe second baseman. Beyond that, the hit also ended an 0-for-18 skid for Cleveland's Nos. 1-2 hitters.

Indians: Lefty TJ House has had a week to pore over the mess that was his 2015 debut. On April 12 against Detroit, House allowed six runs on six hits and was chased from the game after only 1 1/3 innings. He did not look like the starter who posted a 2.53 ERA in the second half last season. House will look to turn things around in Sunday's series finale against the Twins in a 1:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field.

Twins: Right-hander Trevor May is set to make his second start of the season against the Indians. May, who was recalled from Triple-A Rochester when Ricky Nolasco was placed on the 15-day disabled list, wasn't helped by his defense last time out. May gave up five runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Royals, but showed good control and pitched better than his linescore indicated.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.
Read More: Torii Hunter, Nick Hagadone, Phil Hughes, Joe Mauer, Roberto Perez, Kurt Suzuki, Blaine Boyer