July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Tribe: Salazar struggles, Indians hitters take the day off

Kansas City’s Norichika Aoki dives safely back to first as Cleveland first baseman Nick Swisher takes the pick-off throw. (AP PHOTO)

Kansas City’s Norichika Aoki dives safely back to first as Cleveland first baseman Nick Swisher takes the pick-off throw. (AP PHOTO)

CLEVELAND — Right-hander Danny Salazar was the toast of the town in Cleveland last year.

Now, he’s just toast.

Salazar was brief and ineffective for the fourth time in as many outings, leading to an 8-2 loss to the Royals at Progressive Field on Tuesday night.

In four starts this season, the 24-year-old is 0-3 with a 7.85 ERA.

“I don’t always want to put it on youth because this is a kid we gave the ball to in the (wild-card) playoff game (last year), but I do think with health and experience he’s going to learn how to do this better,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think right now he’s having a tough time, and he’s getting tested a little bit. I think we all believe in not only him, but everybody in there. We’ll figure it out.”

As has been the case in a couple of his outings, Salazar started strong. He didn’t allow a hit over the first three innings, retiring nine of the first 11 batters — four on strikeouts.

But the second time through the Kansas City order proved fatal for Salazar, who allowed four runs in the fourth inning — three on a two-out home run to Mike Moustakas.

The Royals added another run in the fifth off Salazar on consecutive doubles from Eric Hosmer and Moustakas to go up 5-1.

“Every pitcher has to make adjustments as you go through the order,” Francona said. “Danny has the weapons to go through a lineup multiple times. It’s more executing pitches.

“We can’t forget last year when he was pitching he was on a pretty strict limit for health reasons. So now he’s starting to get stretched out a little bit. It’s been a while since he’s done that. He’s never done it at the major-league level, so sometimes you have to be patient.”

Cleveland generated little offense off KC starter James Shields, who allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits while striking out nine over six innings.

Cleveland scored once off the right-hander on a two-out single from Michael Bourn in the second inning, then again in the sixth on a two-out double from Yan Gomes.

“Unfortunately, he’s pretty much the same every time you see him,” Francona said of Shields, who improved to 2-2 with a 1.91 ERA. “He pounds the strike zone, very difficult to run on. He can cut his fastball. He can throw it into lefties. He can change speeds off of it, and he competes. That’s why he’s one of the best.”

Cleveland has struggled to score with runners in scoring position all season. The Indians have scored four runs or fewer in six of their last eight games.

“Some of that has to do with the opposing pitchers making pitches when they need to,” Francona said. “I do think our at-bats are getting better. We need to string them more together, that’s kind of stating the obvious, but those pitchers they had out there were pretty good.”

The loss came in front of a season-low crowd of 8,848, which is 122 fans shy of the all-time low at the park set April 3, 2011, against the White Sox.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.