CLEVELAND — The future looked bright Saturday for the Indians at Progressive Field.
Getting production from a number of young players — most notably right-hander Danny Salazar and shortstop Jose Ramirez — Cleveland notched a needed victory, turning back the Astros 3-2.
The win came in walk-off fashion, with Ramirez slashing a one-out single to left field in the ninth inning that scored another rookie — Tyler Holt — to touch off the celebration.
It was Cleveland’s American League-leading 10th walk-off victory of the season.
Thanks to injuries to key players and trades of others, the Indians have instilled youth in their lineup and on their pitching staff. It’s come with growing pains, but this time it ended with success.
“We talked (Friday) night about with the youth, you need some patience. But you’re also seeing what they can do,” said manager Terry Francona, whose team won for the eighth time in 12 games.
All three rookies — Ramirez, Holt and catcher Roberto Perez — had a hand in the ninth-inning rally.
Holt pinch hit for Chris Dickerson and lined a single to center to start the inning. Perez got down his second sacrifice bunt of the game to move Holt to second. Michael Bourn drew a walk, then he and Holt moved up a base on a wild pitch, leaving runners on second and third.
Ramirez followed by connecting on a 3-2 pitch for the first walk-off hit of his career.
“I was trying to put the ball in play, trying to make contact,” Ramirez said through Perez, who served as his interpreter. “That feels awesome. Thank God I’m taking advantage of the opportunity the Indians are giving me. I’m just trying to get the most out of it.”
“To us, it feels amazing,” Perez said of the rookies contributing. “These guys played at Triple-A with me, it’s just awesome to see their success. It’s just awesome to be part of this team, and with them, too.”
Salazar isn’t a rookie, but the right-hander is still relatively inexperienced. He has pitched better since returning to the rotation from Triple-A, offering another quality start by allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, while striking out seven over six innings.
In six starts since being recalled from the Clippers, Salazar (4-6, 4.52 ERA) has allowed three runs or fewer five times.
“I thought he was pretty good,” Francona said. “When he’s aggressive, his stuff is so good. There’s still some inconsistency, but he’s young.”
Salazar allowed both his runs in the third inning — one on his own mental mistake when he failed to back up the plate on an errant throw from right fielder Chris Dickerson. He struck out Chris Carter to end the third, then didn’t allow a hit — just one baserunner — for the remainder of his outing, striking out the last two batters he faced.
“The first couple innings I was a little bit lost,” Salazar said. “My release point wasn’t there. I’m throwing more strikes. That’s the key.”
It was another top-shelf performance from Cleveland’s starting staff, which has shined in August, posting the fourth-lowest ERA (2.77) in the majors through Friday. The Indians’ rotation owns a 1.61 ERA over the last 12 games.
“They’ve given us a chance, it seems like every night, which is good,” Francona said of the starting pitchers. “Just because there’s some youth there doesn’t mean you can’t pitch.”
WHO: Cleveland vs. Houston
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Bauer (4-7, 4.41 ERA) vs. Oberholtzer (4-8, 4.01)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM