Smoke signals

Smoke signals

• The Indians' left-handed relief situation has improved since the club acquired lefty Marc Rzepczynski form the Cardinals prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Entering Wednesday, the relievers have posted a 3.27 ERA (33 innings) since Aug. 1, compared to a 6.47 ERA (65 1/3 innings) between April and July.

"He's been really good," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Rzepczynski. "Sometimes a change of scenery helps. Over there, he got caught behind some other people. Here, he's getting a chance to pitch regularly and he's kind of taken to it, and he's been really good for us."

• With less than a dozen games left on the regular-season schedule, Francona is paying close attention to nightly matchups when assembling his lineup. Against Royals lefty Bruce Chen on Wednesday, outfielder Drew Stubbs (.272 against lefties) was out of the lineup, but Ryan Raburn (team-high 32 plate appearances against Chen) and Michael Brantley (.529 average vs. Chen) got the nod.

"We've got a lot of lefties coming up over the next week," Francona said. "We'll mix and match. This isn't the time of year to have an ego. Fortunately, our guys don't. We'll use our entire bench, if we have to."

• Heading into Wednesday's start, rookie Danny Salazar was averaging 11.95 strikeouts per nine innings. Dating to 1916, that is the best single-season rate among Indians pitchers with at least eight starts. Bob Feller (11.03 in 1936) and Sam McDowell (10.71 in 1965) rank second and third, respectively, on that list.

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.