I did not expect to lead this recap off by talking about a relief pitcher, but let's talk about Carlos Carrasco. He entered tonight with a 2.18 ERA in 20.2 innings as a reliever this season, after an ugly stint in the rotation to begin the year. Coming out of the bullpen, he's struck out 18 while walking only 4. Most of those innings have come in fairly low leverage situations though. Tonight, Terry Francona (perhaps having read that he's using his top three relievers so often they're all on pace to tie or break the franchise record for appearances) called on Carrasco with the game very much on the line.
Carrasco responded well.... Really well.
He entered with two outs in the 7th inning and struck out Howie Kendrick. After walking Raul Ibanez to lead off the 8th, he got a strike-hime-out-throw-him-out double play, and after a base hit he struck out Kole Calhoun. Then in the 9th he retired Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton in order.
Believe it or not, it was the first 2+ inning save in a one-run game for the Indians since Eric Plunk in May of 1993, more than 21 years ago.
Carrasco-as-starter has driven me nuts, but Carrasco-as-reliever is someone I can get behind.
The 6.2 innings before Carrasco entered the game were all pitched by Trevor Bauer, making it the longest start of his MLB career. He threw a whopping 119 pitches, also a career high, and the most by any Indians pitcher in 2014. He gave up 8 hits and 4 walks, which means he was probably fortunate to allow only 3 runs, but credit to him for stranding 10 runners.
Offensively, the Tribe started things off right with a leadoff single by Michael Bourn in the 1st, followed by a two-run blast from Asdrubal Cabrera. After the Angels had tied the game back up, MLB Player of the Week Michael Brantley put them back ahead with an RBI single in the 3rd. He hit his head on a double-play ball a minute later, and an inning later he was pulled from the game for precautionary reasons. Francona said after the game that Brantley had passed all the initial concussion tests, but has a stuff neck. The team will see how he feels tomorrow, but he could be right back in the lineup.
The Indians immediately allowed LA to tie the game again in the top of the 4th, but Carlos Santana responded with a rocket into the right-field bullpen to lead off the bottom half of the inning, putting the Tribe ahead for good. It was his 9th home run of the season and his 3rd since returning 10 days ago from a concussion. If you haven't already, I implore you to stop thinking of him as a player in a slump. He's been hitting really well again for weeks now.
The win pushes the Indians back above .500. Meanwhile in Detroit, the Royals extended their winning streak to 8 games by beating the Tigers 11-8. That means KC is only half a game out of 1st place, and the Tribe is only 2.5 games out. Things have gotten very interesting in the AL Central, as the season nears its midpoint.
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