Salazar Tosses Gem, Lindor Walks it Off in Cleveland

If you are a big fan of offensive baseball with teams trading home run for home run all game long, this Saturday night in Cleveland was not the night for you. Unless of course your next favorite thing is free baseball. In which case, you would have loved this one.

Danny Salazar, a crucial piece of the Indians rotation in 2016 (minus the postseason) had been sidelined for the past month and a half dealing with a shoulder injury. His last start was on May 27th and his last MLB appearance was June 3rd. He would go toe to toe with Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman who entered the contest with an impressive record of 9-5 and a 3.10 ERA.

Salazar set the tone early (and I mean EARLY) by striking out the side to start the game, doing it all on 12 pitches. Out of those 12 pitches, 11 were fastballs, and absolute heaters at that. Salazar would continue to torch batters all game long, moving his fastball around the zone with ease and topping out at 98 MPH. Not too shabby for someone who hadn’t pitched in a major league game in over 30 days. When Danny did decide to feather in some off-speed stuff, it was nasty. Blue Jay hitters were chasing changeups and sliders out of the zone consistently en route to a 8 strikeout performance for the Dominican right hander.

“It was very impressive”, said Tribe manager Terry Francona. “He came out throwing strikes, he had velocity, he attacked. That was really impressive”.

The Tribe offense would strike first in the bottom half of the 4th, as with runners on the corners and only one away, Edwin Encarnacion hit a screamer towards Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson who did not field it cleanly, allowing Michael Brantley to reach second base and Francisco Lindor to score. Donaldson did not receive an error on the play, rather, it was ruled a fielder’s choice as Encarnacion was thrown out at first.

Toronto would not answer until the 8th frame. With Salazar cruising but still only on his first start back from injury, Terry Francona decided to pull Danny (who was only at 85 pitches and seemed to have complete control of his fastball still) in favor of reliever Andrew Miller. Toronto first baseman Justin Smoak would clobber the first pitch thrown by Miller, depositing the ball into the right field seats to level things at 1.

The Tribe would put runners in scoring position in both the 8th and 9th, but were unable to convert. Toronto also had their chances at the dish but could not score anyone, sending the game to extras.

In the end, it would be none other than Francisco Lindor who played hero for the home faithful. Frankie found a pitch to his liking, literally just as the rain had started up again downtown, and sent an absolute rocket to right that was a no doubter the second he made contact. Lindor would trot around the bags with that enormous smile and receive a friendly assault from his teammates at home, giving the Indians a 2-1 win to even the weekend series up. The homerun was good for Lindor’s first walk-off long ball in his career, and fans certainly don’t expect it to be his last.

“I wasn’t trying to win the game, I was just trying to get on base!” said Lindor in his post-homerun interview, acknowledging Brantley and Ramirez, due up after him, both as top 3 hitters in the league. “I finally got the barrel to the ball”.

The biggest gripe fans had was the decision to pull Salazar (evident by the number of angry phone calls you could hear on the radio on the way home from the game), however, when you pull a guy who hasn’t started in 30+ days for arguably the most reliable bullpen setup guy in the game, it’s hard to fault that. One would much rather have Danny Salazar come playoff time than lose him over a late game injury in mid-July because he got pushed too hard.

The final line for Marcus Stroman would be 1 earned run on 5 hits with 7 strikeouts and 5 walks through 7 and 2/3 innings. For Salazar, it was 0 earned runs on 1 hit with 8 strikeouts through 7 innings. Bryan Shaw would receive the win despite a cascade of boos from the fans when he entered the game (I guess we all hate the guy with a 1.20 ERA???) and Toronto reliever Danny Barnes would be hit with the loss. Shaw is now 3-4 on the year while the loss dropped Barnes to 2-3.

The unsung heroic play of the game (excluding the walk-off here) came from Michael Brantley in the 9th. Jose Bautista would send a towering fly ball to the track and left, giving Darwin Barney (the runner on first) the idea that he could tag up and move to second to get in scoring position. Brantley fired a laser from the track right into the glove of Jose Ramirez who would lay down the tag on Barney, a crucial double play that really got the momentum back in Cleveland’s favor after it had been deflated by Justin Smoak.

The Tribe will look to win the series tomorrow as Corey Kluber will square off against J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays at 1:10. Check out the link below to re-watch Frankie’s walk-off blast! (Courtesy of MLB.com)

http://m.mlb.com/cle/video/topic/6479266/v1637980483

Tribe Down Dodgers

The Indians were back in action Thursday afternoon, looking to salvage a lone win in their three game interleague series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

Cleveland was locked in early, with their first four batters of the game reaching base. Jose Ramirez would drive in Fransico Lindor for the first run of the game. They would score again later in the inning thanks to a Roberto Perez walk, brining in Ramirez. Bradley Zimmer would step to the plate next and leg out an infield single to put the Indians up three to nothing.

 

It was a rough opening frame for Dodger lefty Rich Hill, who threw 39 pitches in the inning, facing all nine batters. He would finally end his misery when utility man Erik Gonzalez, who was starting in place of Jason Kipnis (Neck), struck out to end the bases loaded threat.

 

Hill would find himself in more trouble during the second inning. After getting Lindor to line out, Daniel Robertson snuck one through the left side of the infield for a single. Ramirez would get his second RBI of the day next, scoring Robertson with a double to right centerfield. After Ramirez got caught stealing third, Edwin Encarnacion hit a towering drive over the left field wall for his 13th home run of the season. The blast gave the Indians a nice five run cushion early in the game.

 

Indians’ starter Josh Tomlin cruised through the first two innings before getting into some two-out trouble in the third. With runners on second and first, Dodger Designated Hitter Justin Turner hit a shot to third and Ramirez dove to his left to make the play and get out of the jam.

 

The Dodgers would get on the board in the fourth inning when rookie sensation Cody Bellinger hit one around the right field foul pole for his 18th home run of the year.

 

They would score again in the fifth as Yasil Puig hit a double to left, scoring Joc Pederson. The very next batter, leadoff man Chris Taylor, would find the bullpen to make the score five to four.

 

The Indians would respond in the bottom half of the inning. Lonnie Chisenhall took Dodger reliever Ross Stripling deep over the right centerfield fence for a three-run bomb to put the Tribe back up by four.

 

The Indians would not let the Dodgers have life again, taking the game 12-5. The Indians’ 12 runs included a solo home run for Erik Gonzalez, which was his first MLB home run.

 

Tomlin picked up the win for Cleveland, while Hill suffered the loss for Los Angeles. The team now heads north for a three game weekend series with first place Minnesota.

Kluber Debuts, Offense Shines as RubberDucks blast BaySox 10-0

 

Cleveland Indians Pitcher Corey Kluber makes his rehab start versus the Bowie BaySox

AKRON, Ohio — Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber served the first night of his rehab assignment for the Akron RubberDucks tonight as they defeated the Bowie BaySox 10-0. This marks the RubberDucks fifth consecutive win moves them to 22-21 and above .500 for the first time this season. The loss for the BaySox moves them down to .500 at 24-24.

It was a near sellout crowd at Canal Park to see the former Cy Young winner on the mound. Kluber threw 69 pitches in five innings while only allowing two base hits, the only hits the RubberDucks defense allowed the entire game.
Aside from Kluber taking the mound, the story of the night was the RubberDucks offense which exploded for ten runs in seven innings.

After three scoreless innings to start the game, left fielder Dorssys Paulino singled to center-field to bring in the RubberDucks first run of the night in the fourth. They reeled in two more runs in the following inning off a Francisco Mejia single and a Bobby Bradley double to extend their lead to 3-0.

Catcher Francisco Mejia was one of six RubberDucks to score in the 10-0 win over the BaySox.

The seventh inning proved to be the most prolific of the night for the RubberDucks on offense. First baseman Bobby Bradley led in his second runner of the night with a base single. Mejia then scored off a sacrificing fly ball. Three more runs were scored in the seventh inning via hit singles from first baseman Tyler Krieger and outfielder Jordan Smith, while second baseman Mark Mathias doubled to left-field to bring Smith home for the fifth score of the inning.

The win not only moves the RubberDucks above .500 for the first time this season but also ties them with the BaySox for second place in the Eastern League Division. The two teams will face each other three more times from Saturday through Monday before the RubberDucks travel to Pittsburgh for a series versus the first-place Altoona Curve on Tuesday.

Photos by Khalil Smith

Thunder Blank RubberDucks

The RubberDucks (12-17) were in action against the Trenton Thunder (19-11) on Tuesday night, and would fall to Yankees’ affiliate 8-0.
Billy McKinney and Matt Snyder would hit back to back singles in the second inning for Trenton, and McKinney would score on a wild pitch by Akron starting pitcher D.J. Brown to get the Thunder on the board first.

 

The top prospect in the Yankees’ system, Glyber Torres, started the top of the third inning with a single to left. Mike Ford would then walk, and both him and Torres would score on a Miguel Andujar double down the left field line, making the score 3-0 Thunder.

 

Later in the inning, McKinney would get involved once again with a double off the right field wall. He would also score on a Mike Snyder single, making the score 5-0 Trenton.

 

Akron could not get anything going at the plate, as they failed to net even a single run against the Thunder, who are currently leading the Eastern side of the Eastern League.

 

Trenton would continue to pour it on, already leading 7-0, when Thairo Estrada would find the right field stands for a home run.

 

Thunder starter Yefry Ramirez was dominate in his five innings of work, striking out 10 Ducks, while only allowing two hits.

 

It was a rough night for Brown, who only lasted four innings, giving up seven runs (six earned). The rough outing pushes his season ERA to 9.95.

 

 

The RubberDucks will be back in action again tomorrow against the Thunder. First pitch will be at 10:35 a.m. at Canal Park.

The following is what RubberDucks Manager Mark Budzinski had to say following the game.

2017 Marks First “Normal” Season for RubberDucks

   Last season, the Akron RubberDucks had another tremendous year in attendance, saw numerous highly touted prospects play ball at Canal Park, and captured the 2016 Eastern League Championship. Quite the year for any Minor-League Baseball team. As for 2017? Well, it’ll be the RubberDucks most challenging season yet.

I don’t mean that strictly from a baseball or talent point of view. Believe me, Akron will have plenty of talent out there on the diamond, particularly on the offensive side of things. Francisco Mejia, the Indians’ top prospect according to minorleaguebaseball.com, will start at catcher for the RubberDucks and rightfully so after putting together a 60-game hit streak last year in A level ball. The other 3 biggest names to look out for are Greg Allen, Bobby Bradley, and Tyler Krieger. Allen was a sixth-pick in 2014 with great speed and a knack for getting on base. Bradley, the youngest of the group at just 20 years of age, adds a lot of pop to the lineup, as he accounted for 29 home runs and 102 RBI’s last season in A ball. Krieger, a stellar defensive second basemen who is oh-so-reliable on the infield, also has a solid bat with decent power and looks to be a great two-way player for Akron this year.

So, what makes this season so challenging for Akron? Well, I had a chance to sit down with Akron RubberDucks Director of Public and Media Relations Adam Liberman who gave me a rundown on what to look ahead to for this year. According to Liberman, this will be the first “normal” season the organization has faced since its name change to “RubberDucks” from “Aeros” back in October of 2013. “We don’t have an All-Star game, we don’t have new parts of the stadium, we don’t have an identity change”. For those who don’t know, the RubberDucks had tons of renovations done to Canal Park including, a Tiki Terrace in right field to replace the bleachers and Duck Row out in “Fowl Territory” that features waiter/waitress service for fans in the first few rows in the left field corner.  Last summer the stadium also hosted the 2016 Eastern League All-Star game which was a huge success.

This year, the RubberDucks will have to do a little bit more to continually get sellouts and high attendance rates that they were accustomed to last year. So far, they’re off to a great start promotionally. Nightly promotions will once again return to the ballpark including my personal favorite, “Giveaway Saturday’s”, where the first 1000 fans receive an awesome bobble-head or some sort of baseball-oriented giveaway. Some new promotions will also be featured, including a post-game rock concert later in the year.

Of course, what is some RubberDucks baseball without some crazy food!? Extreme Food Menu items will be back again and better than ever. Classics such as “The Screamer” and the “Nice 2 Meat You Burger” will once again be back, along with some new originals. The “Notorious P.I.G.” is Akron’s new stacked-to-the-top pulled pork sandwich that is guaranteed to leave fans NOT wanting more (get it?). The “Yardbird” is the other new extreme item this year and is a sandwich featuring apple fritters as the buns, with cream cheese, turkey, bacon, and more stuffed inside! The Game Grill + Bar, attached to the stadium out behind right field, will once again be open and offering new dining options for fans. The most delectable looking are the new Mega Fries, featuring Cajun fries and BBQ brisket. Of course, for those not looking to enter a food coma, the standard hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, hamburgers, etc. will all be available.

There really is something for everyone at the ballpark this summer. “Thirsty Thursday’s” are great for those of us college kids on a budget, featuring $1 and $2 beers every Thursday. “Family FUNday” is also a great chance for parents to play catch on the field before the game with their kids and get autographs in front of the team shop every Sunday. Those days also allow kids to run the bases after the game! Even for those non-humans out there looking to enjoy some baseball, a couple “Bark in the Park” nights allow fans to bring their canine companions to the game!

While 2017 looks to be the first “normal” season the RubberDucks have faced since their identity change, they will be looking to make it very special for every fan at Canal Park this summer. “Quakron” has packed Canal Park all season the past three summers and this year looks to be no different. Check out my interview with Adam Liberman below for more on this year’s upcoming Akron RubberDuck’s season!

https://soundcloud.com/user-770818477/adam-liberman-akron-rubberducks-2017-pre-season-interview