Carrasco quiets Pirates, wins third straight

You can’t ask for anything more than what Carlos Carrasco has done in his last three starts. Following up two 1-0 victories in which he prevented the Indians from enduring a longer losing streak, Carlos spun another gem, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and relinquishing just one run while keeping Pittsburgh crossed-up with his four-pitch arsenal in the Tribe’s second straight 5-1 victory over the Pirates.

Everything you want to see a starting pitcher do, Carrasco did it last night. He got ahead in the count, worked out of a jam in the sixth, avoided the big inning, kept his pitch count low, and he was primarily a groundball pitcher. While all four of Carrasco’s pitches were working for him, his slider was devastatingly effective. The most obvious example of this was his fourth inning strikeout of Andrew McCutchen.

Carrasco was so lights-out that he had allowed just a second-inning walk to Lyle Overbay through five innings. The first batter of the sixth inning, Michael McKenry lined a shot to second base where Orlando Cabrera did all he could to come down with it. Sadly, Cabrera got his glove on the ball, but he could not secure it, and Carrasco’s no-no was toast. Two batters later, Carlos gave up another single to Jose Tabata. Then, in some of his most impressive pitching of the night, he struck out both Xavier Paul and McCutchen again to end the inning and the Pittsburgh threat.

With Carmona struggling, Talbot hot or cold, and Masterson winless since late April, Carrasco has truly risen to the occasion to be one of the Tribe’s most reliable starters right now. This is the guy who Manny Acta had confidence in at the start of the season to be the #2 starter. It’s also the front-end of the rotation pitcher that Mark Shapiro probably had in mind when he accepted that underwhelming package for Cliff Lee. Carrasco has went at least five innings in 13 of his 14 starts this season, the exception being the game against the Twins where he was injured. Truly, he’s only had two bad starts, his first against the White Sox and against the Rangers four starts ago in early June. I’ve been skeptical of Carrasco in the past, but I’m starting to believe. After the game, Acta spoke glowingly of Carrasco, complimenting him for trusting pitches other than his changeup, especially his fastball. “Not every fastball is going to go whack”, Acta said.

As for the Tribe offense, it was getting back to old good habits, two-out hits and small ball. Orlando Cabrera’s homer is the only run that came without two outs or as the result of a sacrifice fly. Carlos Santana brought home Sizemore in the first on a sac fly, which gave Carrasco some immediate run support, something he has not been accustomed to. Sizemore added run number two in the second, bringing home Austin Kearns (yes, Kearns was on base and actually had two hits!). Sizemore added a triple in the seventh and came around to score on a Michael Brantley sac fly. Hopefully, Sizemore’s bat will start to come around now as well, because he’s been looking lost at the plate as teams have been attacking him with breaking pitches and the strikeouts have been piling up for him.

You know that feeling you get when you just know something is going to happen? I had one of those strange moments with Orlando at the plate in the sixth. In the top of the inning, he was unsuccessful in trying to preserve Carrasco’s no-hitter. After the play, he looked quite upset with himself (see: picture above), not necessarily looking like he should have made the play, but that he could have. I said to myself, “I bet OCab is still steamed about not making that play. Watch him hit one out here.” Sure enough, Orlando sent one off the home run porch railing, just above the yellow line.

Speaking of that pesky yellow line, how often will you see something like we have the last two nights? First, on Friday night, Pronk hits the yellow line in right field and ends up with an RBI double instead of a three-run homer. Then, Sizemore’s triple in the seventh last night does the exact same thing in center field. Maybe the Indians should think about shaving the top couple of inches off those walls.

It’s almost assumed now that the bullpen does its job each time it’s called upon, but that shows just how solid they’ve been. Saturday, with Vinnie Pestano pretty much unavailable, Joe Smith rose to the occasion, working out of the situation that Carrasco left with in the seventh, one on and one out. The side-arming righty even got his double-play ball to get out of things. The only problem is that Asdrubal’s throw to first pulled Santana off the bag and Carlos missed the tag. Smith then got Matt Diaz to ground out to first to end the inning. Smith then worked the eighth, giving up a leadoff walk but coming back with two called freeze frame strikeouts and a groundball out. Tony Sipp then worked an uneventful ninth for the second straight night. A job well done once again by the Bullpen Mafia.

Today, the Tribe goes for the sweep against the Buccos, with Justin Masterson facing Jeff Karstens.

(Photo: Amy Sancetta/AP)