Salazar follows rookie's lead with stellar outing

Right-hander flirts with no-hitter during 7 2/3 strong innings vs. Rays

Salazar follows rookie's lead with stellar outing

ST. PETERSBURG -- Danny Salazar was quick to proclaim his outing in the Indians' 6-2 victory over the Rays Tuesday the best start of his season, but he was equally as quick to give some of that credit to his teammate Cody Anderson.

One night after Anderson kicked off his start with 6 1/3 perfect innings en route to his first Major League win, Salazar began his appearance by retiring the first 15 batters he faced before ultimately earning a victory after allowing two runs -- one earned -- on two hits.

"I was trying to follow Cody tonight," Salazar said. "The way he pitched, I loved it actually. I re-watched [his] game today before the game to see where he was pitching, how he was handling pitching inside and outside and moving the ball."

The right-hander began his night by getting Kevin Kiermaier with a called third strike, but from there, the strikeout pitch disappeared for Salazar as he only recorded one more in the contest to set a new season-low for punchouts. Instead, Salazar grinded through at-bats as he worked his way through five prefect innings, falling behind six different times and having to work out of four full counts.

"He actually worked behind [in the count] the majority of the night," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "but he had such a good fastball and he used it a lot. And, when he got behind in the count, he still challenged the hitters and got by on it for the most part."

"I think that's why you didn't see the strikeouts, even on a night where you only see a couple hits."

Being behind in the count, though, ultimately cost Salazar a chance at history as he walked Asdrubal Cabrera to lead off the sixth to lose the perfect-game bid, and then gave up a double to Curt Casali on a 2-1 fastball to end his no-hit bid. Watching history escape his grasp, though, had no affect on the 25-year-old pitcher.

"[I reacted] normal because it was just a double," Salazar said. "I was winning the game, so I just tried to stay calm and tried to finish my job."

Three pitches later, Salazar got Kiermaier to fly out to end the sixth, and then responded by putting up another perfect inning in the seventh. In the eighth, though, he lost his shutout when Cabrera doubled to bring home Logan Forsythe, and he was pulled after Francisco Lindor, who made a tremendous diving stop in the fourth to rob Evan Longoria of a hit and preserve Salazar's bid for perfection, committed a two-out error.

Lindor's awesome diving play

The outing proved to be the second time this season that Salazar allowed two or fewer hits -- the third time he's done so in his career -- and after the Indians' bullpen closed the door, he was credited with his seventh victory of the season, setting a new career-high.

"It's important to me because I'm winning for the team," Salazar said. "As a team, we are winning and we are playing hard. It's not just for me. We want to win every game, not just when I'm out there."

Troy Provost-Heron is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.