Even with 2014 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in the rotation, there is no doubt that Danny Salazar is the ace of the Indians pitching staff. The Yankees learned that earlier this month when the righthander held them to one run and four hits in a 2-1 loss.
The strategy this time? Try to get to Salazar early. And that is exactly what the Yankees did Saturday, scoring five runs in the first two innings of their 6-2 victory. In doing so, they beat a pitcher who had a 1.45 ERA in his previous seven starts.
"I thought we jumped on some fastballs early on him today," Joe Girardi said. "We didn't miss them."
After Yankees starter Luis Severino gave up a home run to Francisco Lindor in the first inning, the Yankees went right after Salazar (11-7) in their first at-bat. Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Brett Gardner lined a ball to right that barely cleared the wall for a two-run homer.
"It was big," Gardner said. "Jacoby did a good job getting on base and setting the tone. I was able to get a fastball up . . . It ended up giving Severino a little bit of a cushion to work with.
"You don't want to let a good pitcher get in a groove and start setting three in a row down four, five and six [innings] in a row. Before you know it, you're in the middle of the game and you got one or two hits. So you want to try to get to him early and make him as uncomfortable as possible. [Otherwise] they kind of get on cruise control and just move right through the lineup."
After Salazar retired Beltran, Brian McCann, who had homered off Salazar in Cleveland, smacked a homer into the seats near the Yankees bullpen in right-center.
"When good pitchers find their release point on their pitches, it's going to be a long day," McCann said. "It's very important to get to them early. He's got great stuff, you gotta be ready to hit. We were able to jump on him, which is good."
The Yankees added two more runs in the second inning as Stephen Drew and John Ryan Murphy started off with singles. A throwing error by Salazar allowed one run to score and Murphy scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran.
Four of the Yankees' eight hits off Salazar came in the first two innings. He was removed with two outs in the fifth.
"He went more to his off-speed later in the game," Gardner said, "but we had already done a little bit of damage, so it ended up as a pretty good day for us."