Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
By Rich Mancuso
This a Cleveland Indians team that depends on their lineup and for the most part they have produced the runs that have them atop the central division standings in the American League. They also have a pitching staff that has the second lowest ERA in the league and ranks fifth in the majors.
So when their right-hander, 29-year old Carlos Carrasco of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, loses three straight games, his latest coming in the Bronx this past Sunday against the Yankees, there may be a concern. The Indians need his strength and innings if they want to hold off the surging Detroit Tigers and play baseball deep into October.
This is Cleveland, a city that has an NBA championship. The Indians, a franchise that has yet to catch on with fans with the second lowest attendance in baseball at Progressive Field, need Carrasco to be the pitcher they expect.
And for the most part, Carrasco has been effective. But against the Yankees, he could not find his spots and that cost him. Didi Gregorius hit a solo home run off a curveball in the fourth inning, but that was a mistake and manager Terry “Tito” Francona was quick to note:
“You pay for your mistakes.”
And that was one of the few that Carrasco made, and with adjustments, as any pitcher will do, before the next start, command of the curve will have a different approach. There was also the ability of Carrasco to get out of jams and his fastball enabled him to get 9-strikeouts.
“I should have not thrown the curveball,” Carrasco was saying in the middle of the Cleveland clubhouse with an ice pack over his right shoulder. “Overall things felt fine out of the bullpen. Like “Tito”said you pay for your mistakes.”
“Today, I felt fine,” Carrasco said. “Things i did in the bullpen worked what I was looking for. Every time I make a mistake, I pay for it. A majority of the curve balls went down the middle. I can’t do that.”
Last year, Carrasco put in an entire season with the Indians rotation. He finished with a strong second half, 4-5 with a 2.99 ERA and that was down the stretch after a slow 4-4 start. The adjustments once again came into play, so there are expectations that this stretch run for Carrasco will go just as good.
However, Carrasco, overall was not disappointed. It is a part of the game and for a pitcher there will be those type of outings on the mound. He was asked if there was disappointment, despite one major mistake, and that was the home run ball, the 16th one thrown this season.
“Was good, but it’s part of the game,” he said. “You can’t control that. It happens. Nothing you can do about it. Frustrating, yes. Any pitcher, you don’t make your spots that’s what happens. That’s what I did today.”
Then there was the second inning that became an adventure. Rob Refsnyder hit a leadoff single and Carrasco kept throwing to first for an attempted pickoff. There was a visit to the mound, the Yankee Stadium crowd continued to boo, but Carrasco kept throwing.
That was not a reason for the command that was not there. It was, according to Carrasco, one of those situations of not making the runner get into scoring position and early in the game. No problem caused, because Carrasco got three strikeouts to end the inning.
“I was trying to pick a guy off over there, but i think I threw too many,” said Carrasco. “I was trying to control the running game. I think, I did too much.”
But this was a start the manager wanted to see, after Carrasco allowed a season high eight runs in his last start that went 3-⅔ innings.
“There was a hundred percent difference,’’ he said about this start against the Yankees, and he did not offer comment about the release and so-called possible retirement of Alex Rodriguez that dominated the headlines of a game that was important to him.
“I had more control of the fastball and slider. It was great to pitch the way I did today. My last outing was not good, but I was fine today.”
And for the Cleveland Indians, a team that is in a struggle, right now they need Carlos Carrasco to give them innings and be fine if they have those hopes of being a team to contend with down the stretch.