Salazar laments one pitch, but learns from duel

Salazar laments one pitch, but learns from duel

CLEVELAND -- One mistake is all it took to sink Danny Salazar on Wednesday night. When the Indians' starter slipped behind in the count to the Mariners' Norichika Aoki in the second inning, the right-hander unleashed a fastball that proved to be his undoing.

Aoki ripped the pitch down the first-base line and bouncing into right field, where Lonnie Chisenhall had been shaded more toward center field. The result was a two-run triple, and -- in light of the gem Taijuan Walker was spinning for Seattle -- that was all it took to send the Indians to a 2-1 loss at Progressive Field.

It was a tough loss to swallow for Salazar, who is off to a strong start for the Tribe.

"It makes you feel bad," Salazar said. "But at the same time, you know you're in the game and you need to keep battling out there."

Salazar also felt the close game and duel with Walker could be a valuable lesson.

"I think it makes me stronger," he said.

The Indians will take what Salazar gave them on Wednesday every time.

Over seven innings, the hard-throwing right-hander was charged with only the two runs on three hits. All three of those breakthroughs for the Mariners came within the first two innings. Nelson Cruz delivered a single that amounted to nothing in the first. One frame later, Adam Lind led off with a base hit and Chris Iannetta drew a walk, and with two outs, Aoki came through.

After that triple, however, Seattle's lineup went 0-for-16 against Salazar, who ended with seven strikeouts in the 114-pitch effort. The fact that his performance actually raised his season ERA to 1.47 shows how well he has pitched out of the chute for Cleveland, too. Through 18 1/3 innings, the right-hander has 23 strikeouts and a .129 (8-for-62) opponents' average.

"When you start [having a string of good starts], and talking about consistency, that's a good feeling," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I don't see any reason why that should change. He's working hard. His routines are good. He's going to be OK."

So far this season, Salazar's pitch usage and velocity have both been in similar ranges as last year, when he had a breakout showing for Cleveland. The right-hander said he has tried to be more aggressive this season, but the numbers so far show that it has been the hitters who have attempted to attack strikes with more frequency. Entering Wednesday, hitters were swinging at 76.7 percent of pitches inside the strike zone, compared to 69.3 percent last year against Salazar.

In Aoki's case, he received a 2-1 fastball that came in at 94 mph, but was not where Salazar intended.

"I tried to go inside," Salazar said. "That was my fault, because I got in trouble and then I just gave up that triple."

That was all it took this time.

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