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Danny Salazar pitched 7 1/3 innings Wednesday night and the Indians scored just enough to send the Yankees toppling out of first place in the AL East for the first time in 40 days.
Abraham Almonte, a former Yankee farmhand, gave the Indians a 2-1 victory with his sixth-inning single off CC Sabathia. Salazar and Cody Allen took care of the rest.
Danny walked five New York hitters, but struck out eight of them, and most importantly pitched into the eighth inning. Before the game Terry Francona perhaps thought his best-case scenario would be to only use Salazar and Cody Allen tonight, as he’d used all of his bullpen the night before. With no off days for the next two weeks, the only way the bullpen could get a day’s rest is if the starter went the distance. The next best thing to that complete game would be using the starter and only one reliever, and that’s what Francona did. When Salazar got into a jam in the eighth (first and second, one out), Cody Allen came into the game. It was a move that many MLB managers wouldn’t make, but I think Francona made it because he thinks so much about keeping his bullpen fresh. And given how Bryan Shaw looked last night, you’d rather go with Allen for five outs than risk not even getting to use him at all. Allen got Alex Rodriguez to ground into a double to end the eighth, then plowed through the heart of the Yankee order in the ninth (he had to face four batters because Brian McCann reached on a dropped third strike). Now for tomorrow’s game every reliever except Cody Allen will be pitching on a day’s rest.
Even though the Indians scored just two runs, there were some standout offensive performances Francisco Lindor, who was four years old when the Indians drafted Sabathia in 1998, put together two excellent at-bats against the New York left-hander; one came in the third inning, when he worked a walk after a lengthy at-bat. The rally was later diffused when Chris Johnson hit into an innning-ending double play. The second at-bat came in the fifth inning, under identical circumstances, and this time Lindor laced an outside pitch into right field to tie the game. Johnson again would quell the rally with a double play. In the sixth the Indians took the lead when Abraham Almonte singled in Carlos Santana. The team could have easily scored four or five runs off Sabathia had those runs been followed up with one more hit, but thanks to Salazar and Allen, those two runs were all they needed.
The Indians (53-59) have won four straight and six of their last 11. They have improved to 24-33 at home and 10-9 against the AL East.
The Yankees (61-51) have lost five straight and seven of their last 11 games.
This three-game series ends Thursday night when RHP Trevor Bauer (9-8, 4.06) faces New York right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (11-2, 4.15) at 7:10 at Progressive Field. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
Bauer is coming off a 17-4 win against the Twins in which he went 6 1/3 innings for his ninth win. The win ended a three-game losing streak for Bauer, who is 1-2 with a 3.78 ERA against the Yankees.
Eovaldi, whose 11 wins is a career high, is 6-0 with a 2.87 on his last nine starts. He is 0-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his career against the Indians