The three game series with the Chicago White Sox turned into a house of horrors pretty much from the first inning of Monday night’s game. It all came to a head yesterday afternoon after the Indians bullpen blew up for the third consecutive time.
Its such a shame too. Carlos Carrasco, making his season debut for the Tribe, spun an absolute gem. The right-hander had pitched into the eighth with a lead and had the White Sox bats baffled all game. He was hitting 95 on the gun consistently, mixing in a change-up and a breaking pitch. This was the top rated prospect the Indians hoped they were getting in the Cliff Lee trade.
“Too bad we couldn’t hold it for him at the end,” said manager Manny Acta.
That’s the real shame of the day. The Indians bullpen has been pretty solid the majority of the year. Certainly they have been much better than the previous two years. But in this series, they reverted back to last year’s bullpen from Hell part deux.
“Carrasco was fantastic,” Acta said. “This is what we envisioned out of this kid. He had plus stuff, three above-average pitches and was able to be aggressive and get ahead in the count. It was beautiful to watch.”
The 23-year old was chased with one out in the eighth and a 4-2 lead. With a man on first, lefty Rafael Perez retired pinch hitter Carlos Quentin for the second out. With three righties in a row coming up, Acta yanked Raffy for Justin Germano. While a career journeyman, Germano has been excellent since being recalled a month ago from Columbus. Entering the game, he had allowed just one earned run in 17.1 innings pitched. The Germanator walked Alex Rios, bringing Indian killer and MVP candidate Paul Konerko to the plate.
Acta could have very easily gone to his best reliever, closer Chris Perez in this situation. Its something he did last week to ensure a win. Perez has gone more than an inning plenty of times this year. Instead, Acta stuck with Germano and got burned.
Konerko crushed a game-changing three-run bomb to put the Sox ahead 5-4 and ensuring the much needed sweep. In all three games, the White Sox hit a game-winning home run in the eighth inning or later.
“The bottom line is that coming out of the bullpen you have to throw strikes,” Germano said. “I got behind guys, and the damage was done on that one pitch that got away from me.”
The question has to be raised – why didn’t Acta go with his top horse for a four out save?
“I guess I caught up with him (Germano), because he’s been fantastic,” Acta said. “He’s usually very reliable throwing strikes, but he came in and walked the first guy and hung that offspeed pitch to Konerko.”
Then Acta got kind of defensive on the subject.
“Hey, [Germano] has to get an out. I can’t be relying on [Perez] to get a five-, four-out save every time we need a win. Some people need to step up. We were one out away from getting to him. We’re in no position to get the closer of this franchise hurt over a win in September.”
Interesting take. There is a fine line in over-extending a guy and trying to win a game, but Perez has proved to be a horse. I haven’t seen any quotes from him, but you know Pure Rage would have been more than happy to take the ball for the four-out save.
Back to Carrasco, he was as impressive as he could have been. This was clearly not the same pitcher we saw up here last September. He looked much more poised and had better command. Car Car version 2009 would have wilted anytime he put a couple of guys on base. Version 2010 looked like a different cat.
“He had good stuff,” Konerko said of Carrasco. “It wasn’t like he was just shutting us down because it was a noon game. He was very good.”
If any positive can come out of this series, it was the performance of a guy who will undoubtedly be in the mix for a rotation spot in 2011. “I felt more comfortable,” said Carrasco, “I feel like I can stay here for a long time and get people out.”
After the sweep, the Tribe now heads to Seattle for a four game set with the Mariners. Josh Tomlin (2-3, 4.08 ERA) takes the hill for the Wahoos. He will be opposed by Doug Fister (4-10, 3.73 ERA).
photo via Chuck Crow/PD