A pair of big innings have fueled the Cleveland Indians to two consecutive victories to start the last week of March.
After tallying five runs in the first on Sunday, the Tribe scored three times in the second to beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in front of 11,624 fans on Monday night at Goodyear Ballpark.
Danny Salazar earned the win while Abraham Almonte furthered his candidacy for the Opening Day roster by hitting a two-run homer.
Salazar strikes out nine
Two home runs from Willson Contreras marked the only damage to Salazar's 5.2 innings of masterful work on the mound. The third starter in the Opening Day rotation punched out nine batters, two of which came against Anthony Rizzo.
"When he works ahead with his fastball, it sets everything else up," said manager Terry Francona in an interview during the game. "That changeup becomes not just a weapon, but a devastating pitch."
Salazar finishes the spring slate with 12.81 K/9 and a .232 opposing batting average in seven starts.
"I thought that was his best outing yet," Francona said. "You could tell there was some intent tonight and he made some real good pitches. I think he felt good about himself after that."
Almonte makes his mark
With Austin Jackson making the Game 1 lineup card, Almonte has been tasked with generating even more of an impression over the final week of Cactus League contests.
Entering the evening affair with an already impressive .378 (17-for-45) batting average, Almonte laced a scorching line drive to left field off Jon Lester for his fourth home run of the spring. The solo shot put Cleveland ahead 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning.
"He came in maybe one of the odd-guys looking out," said Francona. "He's worked so hard on his right-handed hitting. He hit a bullet tonight. We've got to see how things shake out, but he's put himself in a really good spot."
Also responsible for the offensive output was Jackson with an RBI single and Yandy Diaz and Almonte with a pair of RBI groundouts.
"I think the night game was good for everybody," Francona said. "We've been here a long time. It's been hot. So it's nice to play a game under the lights and there was some people here. I think it was good for us."
Andrew Miller, Nick Goody and Kyle Crockett combined for three perfect innings, two holds and a save to help punctuate the ballgame in winning fashion.
The Indians will make their first and last trip to Maryvale Baseball Park to take on the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday at 4:05 PM ET in Phoenix, Ariz.
Corey Kluber is scheduled for his final preseason start against 32-year-old Junior Guerra.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.