Hagadone backs up Francona's confidence with stellar effort

Hagadone backs up Francona's confidence with stellar effort

MINNEAPOLIS -- Danny Salazar logged six overpowering innings on Saturday and helped lead the Indians to a win over the Twins. Closer Cody Allen struck out three batters in the ninth inning to collect a save and seal the victory for Cleveland.

What should not get lost are the two innings between those performances.

Left-hander Nick Hagadone retired all six batters he faced between the seventh and eighth innings on Saturday, bridging the gap from Salazar to Allen and playing a key role in the Tribe's 4-2 win in Minnesota. Hagadone struggled in a handful of outings earlier this month, but his latest effort showed why Indians manager Terry Francona continues to lean on the lefty.

"Hags threw the ball so well," Francona said. "He has the ability to do this. If you let an outing or two [affect your thinking], if you kind of put a guy in the penalty box, you're not going to get to see what he can do. That doesn't help anybody."

Hagadone's first appearance of the season came on April 8 against the Astros, and the left-hander gave up a hit, issued a walk and was lifted before he could record an out. One game later, Francona turned to Hagadone again. Cleveland had a no-hitter intact when the lefty took the hill for the ninth inning, but he gave up a one-out home run to Jed Lowrie, spoiling a bid at history, but not costing the Tribe a win.

In each of his first four games, Hagadone either issued a walk or gave up a hit, including a pair of homers in that time period.

Francona did not let any of that influence his confidence in the reliever.

"He just was a little over-amped that first game," Francona said. "That's why we went right back to him."

Against the Twins, Hagadone (3.38 ERA in 5 1/3 innings this year) took over in the seventh after Salazar surrendered a leadoff home run to Kurt Suzuki. With Cleveland's lead sliced to just two runs, Hagadone set down three hitters in order in the seventh and did the same in the eighth. The lefty registered one strikeout, two groundouts and three flyouts.

"He did an outstanding job," Allen said. "Hags is a big part of this team. He's a guy that I know Tito likes to lean on, because he's a left-hander that can get righties and lefties out. He's got great stuff. He did a great job for us last year and we're looking for him to do the same thing this year."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.