Cold Carrasco Start Allows Twins to Even Series; Twins 7, Indians 3

In a game of young starters, looking to solidify themselves in a big league rotation, it was the younger of the two shining on a sunny, but frigid afternoon at Progressive Field.

The Minnesota Twins took advantage of 27-year old Carlos Carrasco, in his 41st big league start, in the first three innings to even the series with a 7-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, the Tribe could not get the timely hit against 26-year old Kyle Gibson, making just his 11th big league start. Both Carrasco and Gibson fought off contenders to earn spots as the fifth starter in the rotation out of spring training. The Indians bats did not come alive until the bottom of the ninth inning when they mounted a late rally.

Minnesota took the lead before many fans could find the game on television or get nestled into their seat. Brian Dozier hit the second pitch of the ball game off the railing above the fence in left field to give the Twins a quick 1-0 lead. The Twins were not done in the first inning, however. After Joe Mauer grounded out, Josh Willingham doubled and moved to third base on Chris Colabello’s ground ball to shortstop.  With a chance to minimize the damage, Carrasco walked Trevor Plouffe before giving up RBI-singles to both Jason Kubel and Josmil Pinto, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead before the Indians could get to the plate to hit.

The Indians had a chance to answer back in the bottom of the first inning after Nyjer Morgan singled and Jason Kipnis walked, but Carlos Santana struck out and Michael Brantley grounded to first base and the chance to get back in the game quickly was squandered by Gibson.

Carrasco continued to struggle with consistency and control in the third inning. Colabello was hit-by-pitch to start the inning and Plouffe doubled right-center field to score him all the way from first base and give Minnesota a 4-0 lead. Then, Yan Gomes seemed crossed up with Carrasco during the inning when the Tribe catcher allowed two passed balls. Plouffe advanced to third base, then to the plate and Minnesota lead 5-0 in the middle of the third inning.

The Indians were able to tally a run in the bottom of the third inning, but squandered a chance at a big inning. Lonnie Chisenhall doubled down the right field line to start the inning and Morgan walked to put a pair on with no one out. However, Nick Swisher grounded into a double play to end the chance of a big inning. Chisenhall was able to scamper home on Gibson’s wild pitch, cutting the Tribe deficit to 5-1.

After three innings of struggling to command his pitches, Carrasco suddenly found his stride and gave the Indians nearly three more stellar innings. Carrasco struck out four and allowed just one single in innings 4-5-6 of the game. With two outs in the top of the sixth, Carrasco hit Dozier with a curveball and his day was over at 100 pitches (60 strikes). Carrasco (0-1) pitched a subpar five and two-third innings, allowing five runs—four earned—on seven hits, two walks, two hit batsmen and seven strikeouts. Today was Carrasco’s 10th consecutive loss as a starting pitcher since his last victory on June 29, 2011. Scott Atchison retired Mauer for the final out in the top of the sixth inning. Carrasco remains a question mark in the Indians’ rotation.

Gibson left the game shortly after Carrasco. In the bottom of the sixth inning Gibson walked Kipnis to start the inning and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire replaced his young right-hander with left-handed reliever Brian Duensing. Duensing got Santana to ground into a 5-4-3 double play and then Brantley to ground weakly to second base to end any building threat. Gibson (1-0) tossed five innings, allowing a run on three hits, four walks and striking out three.

Atchison and Duensing each worked scoreless innings for their respective teams in the seventh inning. Josh Outman kept Minnesota at bay in the eighth inning, while Jared Burton did the same to the Indians in the bottom half of the frame.

Vinnie Pestano continued to try and find his old self in the ninth inning, but looked much more like the 2013 Pestano that floundered, than the 2011-12  pitcher that dominated. Mauer and Kubel each had RBI-singles in the top of the ninth to tally a pair of insurance runs. Pestano continued to leave the ball over the middle of the plate, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out two.

Twins closer Glen Perkins entered in the ninth looking to get work, but instead gave Minnesota a slight scare. Perkins walked Santana to start the inning before Brantley singled and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to bring home a run. Gomes flew out to center field and Brantley was able to trot home on the sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 7-3, but Cleveland would scratch no closer.

The Indians had just three hits in the game until the ninth inning in the frigid afternoon cold. The game time temperature was just 36 degrees with a 24-mph wind making it tough for the Tribe offense and the 14,153 in attendance.

The win for Minnesota gives Gardenhire 1000 career managerial victories. All of his managerial success has come in a Twins’ uniform. Gardenhire becomes just the 10th manager in MLB history to win 1000 games with one franchise. He becomes the fifth active manager to earn 1000 managerial wins.

Tomorrow, the Indians will try to win the series with Minnesota when ace Justin Masterson (0-0, 0.00) takes the mound in his second start of the season. The Twins will counter with free agent signee, right-hander Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 7.50). Game time is slated for 1:05 p.m. from Progressive Field.

Photo: Tony Dejak/AP Photo

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