KANSAS CITY -- Maybe the Indians will catch lightning in a bottle twice. Following a second straight solid outing from Danny Salazar, it was easy to think back to when he helped carry them to the postseason down the stretch a year ago.
In a 10-3 rout of the Royals on Sunday, Salazar spun seven solid innings en route to a quality start, providing the kind of effort the Indians are hoping to receive more regularly from the righty. That was the case last summer, when Salazar seemingly came out of nowhere and played a key role in the club capturing the American League's top Wild Card spot.
Are the Indians hoping for a repeat performance?
"Absolutely," catcher Yan Gomes said. "At the beginning of the year, we were all super excited for what we had [after] last year with him. It's honestly kind of good that he kind of hit a little bit of a speed bump early, to where he's learned and now, he's coming back and doing what we need him to do. It's exciting."
The speed bump came in the form of a 5.53 ERA in Salazar's first eight outings this season, convincing Cleveland to send the 24-year-old righty back to Triple-A Columbus for some mechanical maintenance. Salazar posted a 4.02 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 10 Triple-A starts and spun a 3.00 ERA with 48 strikeouts against 19 walks in his last six turns in the Minors.
In two big league starts since being recalled on Tuesday, Salazar has allowed four earned runs on 13 hits with 13 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings. In the win over Kansas City, the right-hander allowed three runs on seven hits, but he struck out seven, walked none and set a career-high with 112 pitches in seven innings.
Salazar has thrown 69 percent strikes in his past two starts, compared to a rate of 61 percent in his eight starts to open the season.
"I was trying to stay ahead in the count the whole game," Salazar said of his start against the Royals. "Even when I threw the first pitch for a ball, I tried to come back right after with a strike, and tried to get ahead all the time. I think that was the key."
Last season, Salazar posted a 3.12 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 15 walks across 52 innings in 10 starts for Cleveland, which trusted him with the start in the AL Wild Card Game against the Rays. Through 10 starts this year, he has a 4.96 ERA to go along with 60 strikeouts and 20 walks in 52 2/3 innings.
Manager Terry Francona was pleased with the progress he saw from Salazar against the Royals.
"I thought early on he made good adjustments," Francona said, "because they were covering away and then he started making them be honest in, and he threw some real good breaking balls, and he threw some real good changeups. Not every one, but a lot of good ones. They had to earn everything."