Last night’s Tribe/Tigers tilt held more intrigue than most playing-out-the-string September games. Not only was Carlos Carrasco, the 22-year old right-hander, making his Major League debut, but in somewhat of a surprise, OF Michael Brantley, another 22-year old top prospect, was brought up and got the call in left field.
It turned into a tale of two games.
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a Shin-Soo Choo RBI single, the ball was handed to the kid. The first batter he faced, Curtis Granderson hit a gap shop to right-center. Luckily for Carrasco, somehow Granderson was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. OK, no big deal, he dodged a bullet. Right? Nope. The next five hitters reached base.
Placido Polanco and Carlos Guillen hit back to back homers. Miguel Cabrera singled, Magglio Ordonez walked, and Aubrey Huff singled scoring Cabrera. After striking out Brandon Inge, Gerald Laird doubled in Ordonez. In the blink of an eye, it was 4-1. Nine men came to the plate against the kid in that first inning.
“I was a little bit nervous when I went out there. May fastball was up,” said Carrasco. Truer words could not have been spoken. Literally every pitch the Tigers hit was up in the zone. You aren’t going to get major league hitters out that way.
You can say he settled down a little bit during his next two innings, but the results weren’t impressive. He put two on in the second (on a walk and a single) but was bailed out via the double play ball. In the third, Inge touched him up for a two-run shot to left. After three innings, Carrasco’s night was done.
His numbers: Three innings pitched, six earned runs, nine hits, three strikeouts, three walks.
“My biggest problem was my fastball. It was all over the place,” he said. “My other pitches were working, the slider and the change, just not the fastball.” “He probably had the first-time jitters and we thought three innings were enough,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He did work hard to get through those three.”
Gas can extraordinaire Tomo Ohka came in for some long relief in the fourth and was touched up for a two-run double by Huff. With the Tribe now down 8-1, all hope was lost for the night. Or was it?
In the fifth after a leadoff double by Kelly Shoppach, Brantley got his first major league hit, a sharp single. Grady Sizemore doubled them both home and Tigers starter Edwin Jackson seemed to be wobbling a bit. After Sizemore scored on a Choo fly ball coupled with a Carlos Guillen error in left, Jhonny Peralta singled. Luis Valbuena followed with a double, outing runners on second and third with two out. Unfortunately, Matt LaPorta ended what could have been a big rally with a popout.
Andy Marte added a solo homer in the sixth to bring the Tribe to within three runs at 8-5, but that was as close as they could get.
“We had Jackson on the ropes, but let him off,” said Wedge.
Back to Brantley. Wearing David Justice’s old #23 (I always equate him with that number for some reason) and with a batting stance resembling Garret Anderson, the rookie outfielder had a very patient approach at the plate. He also showed his trademark wheels on an infield hit in the ninth. “I felt a lot of excitement in that first at-bat,” said Brantley. “It’s what every kid in America dreams about.” I promised him that I wouldn’t mention his first at-bat was an inning-ending double play.
With Sizemore’s elbow still an issue and Trevor Crowe soon to return from the disabled list, don’t be the least bit surprised it you see the Tribe’s centerpiece shut down at some point in the next couple of weeks. Brantley is a natural center fielder and I’m sure the Tribe brass is anxious to see how the kid handles his first taste of the big leagues. He is clearly a future core player on this team, so there is no time like the present to see what he can do.
Brantley and Jose Veras were brought up with the September 1 roster expansion yesterday. When the AAA season ends, Catcher Lou Marson will follow.
Aaron Laffey (7-3, 3.40 ERA) attempts to even the series tonight in Detroit against Tigers rookie Rick Porcello (11-8, 4.27 ERA).