CLEVELAND (AP) - Danny Salazar pumped his fist, broke into a big smile and hugged his teammates.
A pitcher’s first career shutout is certainly reason to celebrate.
Salazar (6-6) struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter, and the Cleveland Indians beat the Detroit Tigers 7-0 on Wednesday night.
“I really wanted to finish,” he said. “They asked me after the eighth how I felt and I said I was ready. I felt better in the ninth than I did in the first.”
Salazar, who has pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings, was given a loud ovation by the sparse crowd of 11,739 when he took the mound for the ninth. The 24-year-old right-hander gave up a one-out single to Steven Moya, but struck out J.D. Martinez for the fourth time.
With the crowd on its feet and Salazar’s adrenaline pumping, Nick Castellanos swung and missed at a 2-2 pitch - the 118th of the night - to end the game.
“I was excited, but I tried to keep my focus,” Salazar said. “I was saying, get an out, a strikeout, a groundout, it didn’t matter.”
Indians manager Terry Francona was pulling for Salazar to finish it off.
“You want the kid to get the shutout, but that was his last hitter,” he said. “He sure answered the bell tonight. He really dialed it up.”
Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the first off Justin Verlander (12-12), who allowed seventh runs in 6 2-3 innings.
Cleveland scored twice in the fourth on Lonnie Chisenhall’s RBI double and Yan Gomes’ run-scoring single. Michael Bourn’s RBI single and rookie Jose Ramirez’s run-scoring double finished Verlander in the seventh.
The Tigers (76-63), who entered play a half-game behind Kansas City in the AL Central, won the first two games of the crucial series against their division rivals. Cleveland (71-66) has won seven of 10 and is trying to stay in playoff contention.
Verlander pitched for the first time since nude photos of him and model girlfriend Kate Upton were allegedly hacked from an online account and posted on the Internet. The right-hander told reporters Tuesday that he wouldn’t comment on his personal life and his focus was on helping the Tigers make the playoffs.
Verlander, who struck out seven and allowed nine hits, has been dealing with a sore shoulder and his 4.80 ERA is the second-worst ERA of his career.
Salazar hasn’t allowed a run since the third inning on Aug. 23 against Houston. The right-hander pitched five scoreless innings against Kansas City last week, a start that was cut short by a rain delay.
“He was throwing mid-to-upper 90s the entire game and overpowered us at times,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Santana homered to right on a 2-1 pitch, his 24th of the season.
DH Jason Giambi started for the first time since June 11 and had a second-inning single in three at-bats. Giambi, 43, was activated from the 60-day disabled list on Monday with soreness in his left knee.
RHP Josh Tomlin returned from paternity leave, giving the Indians a total of 11 relievers. Tomlin pitched two scoreless innings for the win Saturday against Kansas City.
Indians: Utilityman Mike Aviles (whiplash symptoms) was out of the lineup for the second straight day. He was injured trying to make a diving catch in right field Monday.
Tigers: RHP Max Scherzer (15-5) will start the finale of the four-game set Thursday for Detroit as the Tigers go for the series win.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer (5-7), who has pitched 11 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings, will start for Cleveland. The Indians have won each of his last four starts.
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