Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco deserve equal billing at the top. What they did last night on a hazy summer evening at Progressive Field can be described in one word: gritty. Two of the four guys who battled for the fifth starter job in Goodyear in March combined to shutdown the dangerous Los Angeles Angels in June to move the Tribe to within two and a half games of first place in the AL Central. The 4-3 win was all about these two power arms.
Lets start with Bauer. The 23-year old started the game with a scoreless frame, striking out two, but the next few innings were a struggle. He was staked to a 2-0 lead thanks to Asdrubal Cabrera’s first inning two-run blast off of Jered Weaver, but the old response runs reared their ugly head. In the top of the second David Freese and Howie Kendrick greeted Bauer with back to back singles. Chris Ianetta’s one out double skipped all the way to the wall past Michael Bourn to tie the game at two. But as he would do all night, Bauer got the biggest outs he needed. He retired John McDonald and Kole Calhoun to end the inning.
Bauer was given another lead in the third when Michael Brantley drove in Bourn with an RBI single. The Angels again responded with a sac fly from McDonald. The kid didn’t look long for the game when Calhoun singled and Trout worked a walk to load the bases for Albert Pujols. But Trevor shattered Albert’s bat on a ground out to third. Another major crisis averted.
Carlos Santana put the Indians back on top again with a solo homer to right field. The Tribe’s DH is really starting to heat up which is badly needed to stretch out the depth of the lineup. The one run lead in the fourth would stick for the duration. But who knew that Bauer would be the guy who would essentially get the Indians into the seventh inning? Through five innings, he bobbed and weaved his way through, giving up three runs on eight hits, but Terry Francona was desperate to get the kid as deep into the game as he possibly could.
The good news was that as the game got longer, Bauer got stronger. He came out for the sixth and worked around a two-out Trout walk before freezing Pujols with a knee buckling breaking pitch. At 110 pitches, he had to be done, right? Nope.
“I can go 130, 140, 150, 200, whatever,” Bauer said.
Bauer got Josh Hamilton and Freese to start the seventh before Francona emerged from the dugout. He was done at 119 pitches. It was yeoman’s work considering the tired state of the pen.
“I would’ve liked to last longer, be more efficient,” Bauer said. “I pitch every fifth day, so I’d rather go out there and be able to do that for the ‘pen and throw a lot of pitches. I train to be able to do that. Hopefully as time goes along I’ll be able to throw more pitches, especially on nights when I’m not as efficient as I could be.”
The guy is so focused on his craft. You don’t see him smile. All he cares about is concentrating on the art of pitching.
With Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Marc Rzepcyznski all unavailable and Scott Atchison only to be used in emergency, Francona turned to Carlos Carrasco. I have been beating the drum for Carrasco to be a late inning reliever for a year. He has failed miserably as a starter but always showed an inning or two of flashes before his implosions. His stuff is built for this role. Last night, he continued to show that he could flourish.
Carrasco struck out Kendrick to end the seventh and then followed with a scoreless eighth. Francona had the newly called-up Mark Lowe warming in the bottom of the eighth, but how could he pull Carrasco for a guy who was in Columbus a night before? So out came Carlos for the top of the ninth. All he had to do was get Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton.
Not only did he notch the first save of his career, but he got the three All-Stars in order and with relative ease. The strikeout of Hamilton closed the game in impressive fashion. Carrasco’s two and a third scoreless couldn’t have come at a better time. The stuff was crisp and dominating. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – this is the place where Carrasco belongs and where he can thrive.
“My mentality is way different,” Carrasco said. “Attacking the hitter and everything … because the game was on the line, 4-3. I used more breaking stuff.”
Francona had Josh Outman and Atchison warming in the ninth in case Carlos ran into trouble, but he never did.
“I think today there was no reason to take him out of the game,” Francona said. “It’s a one-run game and you kind of have to prepare for that. But he executed pitches. Even after the lead-off walk (in the eighth), he speeds up his delivery, makes a pitch.”
Carrasco has made 13 appearances as a reliever and has allowed just five earned runs in 17.1 innings of work (2.05 ERA). No doubt last night will give Francona the confidence to add him into the late inning mix with his big three.
The Bauer and Carrasco showed brought a big win for the Tribe, their third straight. Once again, they are streaking. It is their 10th straight at Progressive Field, where they enjoy the best home record in the game.
Tonight brings a matchup of Josh Tomlin (4-3, 3.33 ERA) and the Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker (3-1, 4.19 ERA).