Salazar shrugs off leadoff blast to throw gem

Indians righty holds Twins hitless after homer and finishes with 11 strikeouts

Salazar shrugs off leadoff blast to throw gem

CLEVELAND -- Danny Salazar could have started to worry. The young starter could have let those here-we-go-again thoughts creep into his mind as Twins second baseman Brian Dozier trotted around the bases following a leadoff home run that quieted the Progressive Field crowd on Sunday.

Four pitches into his outing and Salazar had already surrendered a run.

What was the pitcher thinking?

"Not much," Salazar said with a shrug. "It was a bad pitch. After that, I made the adjustment."

Did he ever.

Dozier homers with pink bat

In an 8-2 victory over the Twins, Salazar put his overpowering potential on full display, collecting 11 strikeouts and limiting Minnesota's lineup to that lone first-inning blast from Dozier. The hard-throwing right-hander issued no walks and logged seven dominant innings to help Cleveland end its three-game losing streak.

After Dozier's home run, Minnesota went 0-for-21 against Salazar.

The pitcher joined an exclusive list for his effort, too.

Prior to Salazar's performance, only two Indians pitchers since at least 1914 had piled up at least 11 strikeouts in at least seven innings while issuing no walks and allowing one or no hits. Righty Josh Tomlin did so in a one-hit gem against the Mariners on June 28 last season, and Len Barker achieved the feat in his perfect game versus Toronto on May 15, 1981.

"He looked good," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "The first batter, they got off to a nice little start. But he didn't let that deter him from having a great outing. He looked strong. He got stronger as he went on."

The Twins did not argue with that assessment.

"The velocity seemed to pick up," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. "He was throwing harder at the end than he was in the beginning. His changeup was disappearing, especially on the left-handed hitters. He was tough, no doubt about that."

Salazar fired off 35 of his elusive split-changeups, representing the most times he has featured that pitch in a start in his young career. The right-hander fired off 54 fastballs and averaged 95.4 mph with his four-seamer. Combine that with the new curveball that Salazar has been mixing in to keep batters honest, and Cleveland witnessed a remarkable outing.

Salazar threw 80 percent of his changeups for strikes and finished with 18 swings and misses among the 102 pitches he threw. During one particularly strong stretch between the fifth and sixth innings, Salazar fanned six batters in a row. His 11 strikeouts matched a career high and marked the fifth double-digit showing of his career.

"Right now, I'm trying to be aggressive every pitch," Salazar said.

Along those lines, Salazar's latest showing improved his strikeout rate to 13.1 per nine innings through five starts (33 innings). For perspective, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw led the Majors with a rate of 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings during his National League MVP and Cy Young showing last year. Salazar also has averaged 9.6 strikeouts per walk (48 punchouts compared to five free passes).

"He looked like he had nasty stuff," said Indians outfielder David Murphy, who had four hits. "I was like, 'Man, I haven't played right field in a while and I didn't touch the ball today.' Oh well. It's fun when your pitcher is locked in. That was a big boost today."

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.