He’s one sharp Cookie: Between Innings

The Cleveland Indians (83-56) have the best run differential in MLB (+190), an 11 game lead in the AL Central division, and have loosened the grip on the number one seed in the American League by the Houston Astros to just three games despite a seven game winning streak of their own. The Tribe’s win streak reached 14 games when they defeated the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, 5-1. That streak had stood since the Indians won 14 straight games an entire 14 months ago. The team goes for a new franchise record tonight as Corey Kluber takes the mound as the Tribe can also finish off a sweep of their entire 11-game road trip.

A quick reminder the Indians have continued their win streak despite injuries to Michael Brantley, Jay Bruce, Jason Kipnis, and Andrew Miller. Danny Salazar, Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer, Josh Tomlin, and Abraham Almonte have only recently returned from injury. The common sports phrase of Next Man Up been made possible by the front office having accumulated depth through youth in the farm system (Yandy Diaz, Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin) and through free agency and trades (Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce). Manager Terry Francona has then continued to piece everything together with an expertise at having the team crest late in the season.

On Wednesday, Naquin’s sacrifice fly in the fourth was the game’s only score through seven innings. Despite Carrasco’s dominant pitching, the game was once again in doubt as it had been the night prior. As they had on Tuesday, the Indians came through with late runs to provide a much-needed late inning cushion. Carlos Santana played the role of hero as he followed up some spectacular defensive plays at first base all game with a towering two-run home run to deep right field off Lord Farquhar, who would give up two walks and two hits including the Santana blast. Greg Allen and Jose Ramirez concluded the scoring for the Indians when they both took advantage of Matt Davidson at first base on consecutive plays.

Hurricane Irma

Let us pause a moment to pray for everyone who has sat and will sit in the path of Hurricane Irma. Unlike Hurricane Harvey, the main worry of destruction is not from torrential rainfall (though over 10 inches in a short time period can still cause mayhem), but from the steady 175 mile per hour winds. Puerto Rico has already been hit, leaving over a million without power. The island of Barbuda has suffered catastrophic destruction.

A great number of the players on the Cleveland Indians hail from one of these islands. Roberto Perez and Francisco Lindor played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic as Carlos Santana did for the Dominican Republic. Just as Jay Bruce lamented his mind was on South Texas in the aftermath of Harvey, appreciate and pray with the players whose families and friends are in the current path of the storm.

Everyone’s path in life is either entering, leaving, or within a storm. A common figurative device to demonstrate the struggles every human faces. Those in the Caribbean and South Florida happen to have it be a literal reality at the moment.

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Translation: “People without respect, a Category 5 storm on the way to our countries and people only making memes and mockery, even with God?”

One sharp Cookie

Carrasco finished off the White Sox with a complete game, three-hit, one-run performance that included nine strikeouts, zero walks, and just 97 pitches needed (76 strikes, 78%). To put the pitch count in perspective, the White Sox needed 168 pitches (95 strikes, 57%). On Tuesday, the White Sox threw 173 pitches (107 strikes, 62%) and the Indians tossed 172 (107 strikes, 62%).

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Everything was working for Cookie on Wednesday. He mixed up his pitches as he threw an almost even amount of sinkers, fourseam fastballs, and curveballs, while throwing an occasional slider and change up just to keep the White Sox off balance. Both the sinker and curve generated good swing-and-miss as 13 of his amazing 17 whiffs were from those two pitches. Given that Carrasco never threw more than 14 pitches in an inning, he was able to get constant rest between his workloads, which helped him maintain a steady velocity on his fastballs throughout. He only touched 97 miles per hour in the second and third innings, but otherwise kept a steady beat at 96 miles per hour the rest of the game.

Given an 84 mile per hour curve that appears to be his hard sinker off his hand, hitters had no chance other than to wildly guess on pitch selection. Carrasco had no fears of utilizing the entire strike zone because of that deception.

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Unfortunately, with shades back to his July 1 2015 near-no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays, non-slugger Adam Launch Engel stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning as Carrasco had an opportunity to finish off a complete game shutout facing the minimum number of batters and staying under 100 pitches.1 Engel took a fourseam fastball over the heart of the plate and hit it over the fence to ruin that opportunity.

Instead, Carrasco will have to be satisfied with his best start in what has been a dominant past 30 days for him. In the last six games he has started, Carrasco now has pitched 42.2 innings (over seven innings per start) with a 1.90 ERA, 50:4 strikeout to walk ratio, and allowed just 30 hits for a .197/.226/.289 slash line against. His 2017 season ERA now sits at 3.53 with a FIP of 3.29 as he passed Chris Archer in fWAR, and he now only trails Chris Sale, Kluber, and Luis Severino. Yes, Carrasco is on pace to finish in the Top 5 of the AL Cy Young Award race.

  1. The term Maddux refers to any complete game shutout with the pitcher staying under 100 pitches. []