July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Good hitting, good pitching, good victory for Tribe

CLEVELAND — The Indians honored longtime radio announcer Tom Hamilton for his 25 years of service prior to Friday night’s game at Progressive Field. Then they went out and kept Hamilton’s vocal chords busy throughout a 12-2 throttling of the last-place Rangers in the opener of a three-game series.

All cylinders were pumping for Cleveland’s inconsistent offense on this night, with the Indians reaching their third-highest run count of the season and banging out 16 hits.

The last two times the Indians have faced the Rangers, they’ve scored 29 runs — winning 17-7 at Texas on June 9.

Cleveland had four players with multi-hit games — Mike Aviles, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and David Murphy. Murphy went 4-for-4, combining with Aviles and Brantley to drive in seven runs. Chisenhall hit his 10th home run in the sixth inning.

“We haven’t had very many games like that. We’ve played so many close games,” manager Terry Francona said of his team’s third win in five games. “It’s really good just to have some breathing room and not have stressful innings on your staff — just a lot of reasons it was good.”

The wealth of run support was more than enough for Indians starter Danny Salazar, who has been solid in three starts since returning from Triple-A Columbus. The right-hander allowed just one unearned run on six hits over six innings while striking out four and walking three.

He was hitting 98 mph on a regular basis while mixing in an effective breaking ball.

“What I really like is from the get-go he’s throwing his best stuff coming out of the bullpen, not easing into the game,” Francona said. “He gets sometimes where he’s almost aiming it. When he lets it go, there’s so much deception with his off-speed to go with his fastball. That’s when he really gets good.

“I think, with Danny, it’s not just (the next) two months. It’s his future. He’s really going to help us.”

The Indians scored a run in the opening inning on a double from Brantley, then tacked on two more apiece in the third and fourth innings off Texas starter Jerome Williams.

Then they really went to work on the 32-year-old right-hander, who was making his second start of the season after being designated for assignment by the Angels and signed by Texas on July 12.

Cleveland batted around in the fifth, scoring six times to build an 11-1 lead. The first five Indians hitters reached base off Williams, whose line read a brutal four innings, 10 earned runs on 13 hits and three walks. The six runs was one shy of the largest inning of the year for Cleveland.

The Indians’ approach at the trading deadline — dealing two of their top players, Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera, for prospects in consecutive days — seemed to signal the team was playing for next season.

Cleveland trails the first-place Tigers by 6½ games in the Central Division standings, entering Friday six games out of the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.

“The business side can stink from time to time, but at the same time we have a lot of good players here and by no means are we giving up or rolling over,” Aviles said. “We definitely want to win and we definitely want to be in the playoffs, because that’s been our goal from Day One.”

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