An explosive first inning for both clubs provided all of the runs on the afternoon as the Cleveland Indians held off the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, on Saturday.
A game that looked like it had all the potential to be a high scoring slugfest completely changed course after the first and turned into more of a mound battle between Cleveland starter Danny Salazar and Seattle right-hander Yovani Gallardo. Salazar would get the better of the veteran M’s pitcher, who was making just his second career start against the Indians.
Seattle found itself down two outs in the first when the offense got to Salazar in a span of just three pitches. Robinson Cano doubled into the left field corner and Nelson Cruz blasted the next pitch over the wall in center for a two-out, two-run home run to put the Mariners up, 2-0. The very next offering from Salazar also exited the playing stage as Kyle Seager homered with his own drive to center, putting Seattle up three before Cleveland even had a chance to bat.
The long layoff may have hurt Gallardo, who found himself dangerously around the strike zone in the first frame. After Carlos Santana got ahead in the count and fouled off several pitches, he drew a walk to start things off. Francisco Lindor walked on five pitches before a fly out to left by Michael Brantley. Edwin Encarnacion loaded the bases with a five-pitch walk of his own and the team’s clutch RBI-machine Jose Ramirez dropped the second pitch of his at bat into right field for a two-run double to cut the deficit to one run. Jason Kipnis went down swinging on three pitches, but with runners on the corners and two outs, Lonnie Chisenhall delivered what would be the game-winning hit with a two-run single to center to put the Indians on top, 4-3.
Salazar retired five straight before putting Ben Gamel on with a walk. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, but would be stranded there as the Indians right-hander got Cano to line out and Cruz to strike out swinging. Salazar would walk the leadoff man Seager in the fourth, but left him at first.
Gallardo had also bounced back nicely from his disastrous first inning. He gave up a single to Encarnacion to start the third before striking out the next three in order. A leadoff single by Abraham Almonte in the fourth was erased on a double play.
Salazar retired ten in a row before Guillermo Heredia walked with one out in the seventh, sending the Tribe’s starter to the showers for Andrew Miller. After walking pinch-hitter Carlos Ruiz, he struck out Taylor Motter and Jean Segura to end the threat.
Miller was even better in the eighth, striking out Gamel and Cano before getting Cruz to fly to right to end the inning. Cody Allen pitched the ninth and had a relatively uneventful save situation, getting Seager to line to right before striking out pinch-hitter Dan Vogelbach and Heredia swinging to close out the game with his sixth save in six chances this season.
The Indians improved to 13-10 with the win and brought their home record near the .500 mark at 5-6. They have now won eight of their last eleven games. The Mariners dropped to 11-14 with the loss and are now just 5-11 away from Safeco Field this season.
SALAZAR SETTLES IN FOR THE WIN
Saturday’s game showed just how quickly tides can turn in a baseball game. A three-pitch onslaught from the Mariners gave them a lead, but the Indians responded with a big inning of their own and Salazar (2-2, 4.34 ERA) did his job, holding the Mariners down hitless over the course of the rest of his start.
He lasted six and one-third innings on the night in what became a quality start, allowing three runs on three hits with three walks and six strikeouts on the afternoon. It was his second win of the season and his first win in three tries against the Mariners.
After getting three straight hits in the first inning, the Mariners were held hitless over the final eight and one-third innings by Salazar, Miller, and Allen. The three combined to walk four, but were otherwise untouchable on the mound.
GALLARDO LOSES FIRST TO TRIBE
Facing the Indians for the first time since 2009, Gallardo (1-3, 5.08) was given a big lead but could not hold on to it. Like his mound counterpart, he was able to give the Mariners six innings on the afternoon, but the four runs that he allowed in the first inning would prove to be enough on the day. He was charged with four runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in the loss.
AN INAUSPICIOUS DEBUT
Boog Powell stepped on a big league field for the first time officially as a Major Leaguer, but it may not have been the debut that he expected. The left-handed hitter, no relation to the former blood red Indians jersey player of the same name, was scheduled to enter as a pinch-hitter for Mike Zunino to face Salazar, but manager Terry Francona brought on Miller from the bullpen. Seattle manager Scott Servais countered by pinch-hitting Ruiz for his pinch-hitter, ending the debut of the rookie Powell before he could even step into the batter’s box.
The Mariners called up Powell on Saturday prior to their game with the Indians, replacing the injured Evan Scribner on the roster after the reliever was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a sore elbow.
THE RUBBER MATCH
The series finale from Progressive Field and the end of the Indians’ six-game homestand against the AL West will take place on Sunday afternoon.
Josh Tomlin (1-3, 9.33) will be the first to the mound for the Tribe on Sunday. He is 4-1 in his career against Seattle with a 3.32 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. He took the loss his last time out against the Houston Astros. Right-hander Chase De Jong (0-1, 5.79) will counter for Seattle while making his first Major League start. He had worked two outings out of the bullpen for the Mariners this season, but is replacing injured staff ace Felix Hernandez in the rotation while he rests on the disabled list with right shoulder bursitis.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images