MINNEAPOLIS — Andrew Albers looked across the diamond at his opposing pitcher Monday night and saw everything he is not.
It didn’t matter one bit.
Albers threw a two-hitter in his second career start and the Minnesota Twins backed him with a pair of home runs in a 3-0 victory over Danny Salazar and the Cleveland Indians.
Salazar is the prized prospect with the exploding fastball and knee-buckling changeup who has been blowing hitters away ever since the 23-year-old joined the organization. Albers is a soft-tossing, 27-year-old lefty who never met a radar gun that didn’t snicker at his 86-mph heat.
Albers (2-0) allowed two singles, struck out two and walked none. He’s thrown 17 1/3 straight scoreless innings in a start to his career that grows more improbable each time he takes the mound.
“I’m not a prototypical prospect,” said Albers, who had Tommy John surgery in 2009, was released by the Padres and was playing independent ball in Quebec in 2010. “I’m not a guy that goes out there and lights up a radar gun or throws devastating secondary stuff. But I can pitch a little bit and so far I’ve been having a little bit of success.”
Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe homered to help the Twins win for the eighth time in 11 games.
Salazar (1-1) gave up three runs and three hits, struck out five and walked three in four innings. The slumping Indians have lost seven of eight and are in danger of sliding out of the playoff chase.
“He doesn’t miss very many spots, and that’s the key,” Cleveland’s Michael Brantley said. “He kept us off balance. He threw the ball well tonight.”
Albers finally was called up to start in Kansas City on Aug. 6 and threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings. Mixing a fastball that topped out at 88 with a slow curveball that grazed 67, he flustered the Cleveland hitters all night and outshined the overpowering Salazar.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Albers said. “I didn’t think it could get any better than the last start. Now here we are and it did. It got a little bit better.”