Despite striking out 120 batters in 110 innings as a 24-year-old last season the Indians sent Danny Salazar to Triple-A at the end of spring training. They quickly realized their mistake, calling him back up two weeks into the season, and he’s been dominant ever since.
Sunday afternoon Salazar gave up a leadoff home run to Brian Dozier and then retired 21 consecutive Twins hitters on the way to seven innings of one-run, one-hit ball with 11 strikeouts and zero walks against one of the hottest-hitting lineups in baseball. For the season he has a 3.27 ERA and 48/5 K/BB ratio in 33 innings, which is incredible.
At age 25 he has a a 3.78 ERA with 233 strikeouts in 195 career innings, for a rate of 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Among all active starters that ranks as the highest strikeout rate through age 25:
Danny Salazar 10.8
Yu Darvish 10.4
Stephen Strasburg 10.3
Jose Fernandez 10.3
Tim Lincecum 10.2
Decent company to keep.
Control was always an issue for Salazar, but of late he’s been pounding the strike zone, trusting his top-notch raw stuff, and relying more and more on a split-finger changeup that induces tons of swinging strikes. And he’s emerging as a 25-year-old ace. Not bad for a guy the Indians deemed not worthy of cracking the Opening Day rotation for a team that currently has the second-worst ERA and worst record in the league.
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.