Looking Back: Urshela Plays the Hero as Angels Get Zero
Bob Toth | On 06, Dec 2015
If you look back on some of the bigger and more memorable games for the Cleveland Indians this season, many times a former Tribesman punished his former club in some way, shape, or form.
On August 4th, that story rang true again. Thankfully for the Tribe, on that day they would ultimately prevail.
Carlos Carrasco and Matt Shoemaker of the Los Angeles Angels squared off on a Tuesday night in Anaheim in front of over 38,000 in what would become yet another solid outing for the Indians starter. Carrasco was 11-8 through 21 starts with a 4.03 ERA and had taken the mantle of the most consistent starter on the staff through the first half of the season. He also had been marred in trade rumors that heated up hotter and hotter as the deadline approached, but would give the Indians plenty of good reason on this day for holding on to him.
Shoemaker, who had struggled after a 16-4 rookie campaign the season before, was just 5-7 with a 4.24 ERA at the start of the day. Both pitchers would see notable declines in their season ERAs before the day was done.
The Indians could not crack through against Shoemaker, despite having multiple opportunities to do so. A leadoff walk to start the game by Jose Ramirez was erased as he was caught stealing. Giovanny Urshela and Ramirez each singled with two outs in the third, but Shoemaker struck out Francisco Lindor swinging. Michael Brantley singled to lead off the fourth…and was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
It was one of those kinds of games for the Indians. The Angels, meanwhile, could not figure out Carrasco, which was certainly not the first nor the last time a team would struggle with that task throughout the season.
Carrasco was breezing through the Angels lineup, putting down the first eleven batters in order before a walk by Mike Trout with two outs in the fourth inning. It ended an incredible stretch of 27 consecutive batters retired by Carrasco dating back to his previous start. A swinging strikeout of Albert Pujols eliminated any chance of the inning turning against him.
In the fifth, the Indians once again found themselves with runners on base and had nothing to show for it. Back-to-back singles from Jerry Sands and Michael Bourn put runners on the corners with one out. After Urshela struck out swinging, Bourn picked off second base and Ramirez walked to load the bases for Lindor. Again, with an opportunity to put the game’s first run on the board, Lindor was unable as he struck out swinging to end the threat.
With a no-hitter intact through four, Carrasco took the mound nearing the game’s halfway point with yet another opportunity to chase history. This time, ex-Indians outfielder David Murphy played the spoiler. His 2-1 single to short center broke up the no-hitter, but he was erased on a stolen base attempt and the inning quickly fizzled out for the Halos.
Shoemaker handed the ballgame over to his bullpen after six successful innings. His pitch count was his enemy, as he had hit 103 by way of ten strikeouts. He allowed five base hits and another two walks, but limited the Indians to zeroes in the runs row. Each of the next three relievers (Trevor Gott, Joe Smith, and Huston Street) left Cleveland lacking, as the Indians mustered just one hit and one walk off of the trio.
Carrasco sailed through the ninth, exiting the game with incredible numbers and nothing to show for it thanks to a stifled offense of his own. He struck out seven, walked one, hit one, and gave up just the one single on an economical 100 pitches.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Carrasco, who was coming off of a two-hitter over Oakland in his previous outing. “But the most important thing for me was to get deep into the game and try to give us an opportunity to win.”
“Tonight he established a really good fastball early, and the breaking ball he threw off of that had some really good depth to it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said, postgame. ”He was economical with his pitches so he could stay out there. He pitched his tail off, and it was impressive. It was fun to watch.”
Urshela tried his best in the tenth to give the Indians a chance to take the lead with his second hit of the game, this one a double down the right field line. He would then try his best to lose the game, getting nabbed heading to third on a fielder’s choice grounder to the shortstop.
In the 12th, he got a chance at redemption. Lonnie Chisenhall singled to left to open the inning against Jose Alvarez, who was beginning his third inning of relief. He got the hook for Cam Bedrosian, who immediately got a lineout and a strikeout to put the inning on the brink of end. Instead, Urshela lined the second pitch he saw down the left field line for the game’s first two runs.
”He’s still been swinging the bat pretty well, and it doesn’t look like he’s been pressing at the plate. Tonight he got a pitch and he didn’t miss it,” said Sands. “It was a big boost for us. I wish we could have gotten Carlos a win out of that, but he pitched his tail off and set it up for our bullpen guys.”
Cody Allen worked the 12th for the save, striking out a pair swinging before getting Trout to ground out to first to end it.
In a season of feats and impressive efforts, Carrasco’s methodical dismantling of the Angels on this day often gets overlooked because in the end, he had a no-decision to show for it on his own stat sheet. Lobbing 100 pitches over a nine-inning start is impressive enough and, in another time, he would have been right back out for the tenth to try to extend his sheer dominance over Los Angeles.
“He put up a bunch of zeros,” said Francona. ”Actually, everybody that pitched did. And they had to, or we didn’t have a chance to win that game because we couldn’t find a way to get a run across until Gio hit that home run.”
For the Indians pitching staff, they allowed just two hits over a dozen innings, walked one, and struck out nine. In addition to their former teammate Murphy, the only other Angels to reach base were Johnny Giavotella, who was hit by a pitch in the ninth and singled in the eleventh, and Trout, who walked in the fourth.
For Urshela, it was a memorable game-changing homer and the fourth of his young MLB career.
Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images