Carrasco Shines in Second Straight Start; Indians 6, Orioles 0

Two former Indians’ starting pitchers took the mound Saturday night. One looked very recognizable while the other looked like something Tribe fans have never seen before.

After five years of trying to make Carlos Carrasco fit in the Indians rotation the Tribe jettisoned him to the bullpen in late April. But in their what could be his final chance, Carrasco shined brighter than he ever has, tossing seven shutout innings without allowing a walk. Cleveland used Carrasco’s potential coming-of-age start, along with home runs from Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley to take advantage of early wildness from Ubaldo Jimenez to defeat the Orioles 6-0, Saturday evening at Progressive Field.

The Indians took an early lead in the bottom of the first inning, taking advantage of two of Jimenez’s weaknesses that plagued him when he was with the Tribe. Jimenez issued back-to-back walks to Michael Bourn and Jose Ramirez to start the inning. Jimenez currently leads the American League in walks this season. After Michael Brantley flew out to left field, Carlos Santana crushed a 422-foot home run to center field. Santana’s 21st home run of the season staked the Indians to a 3-0 lead. It was Jimenez’s 13th home run allowed this season in 20 starts. As a member of the Tribe, he allowed 25 homers in 31 starts in 2012.

After a shaky first inning Jimenez did settle down, but the pitch count meter continued to rise. After four innings, Jimenez had thrown 77 pitches.

Meanwhile, Carrasco looked better than ever and as if he was finally becoming the pitcher the Indians have been hoping for since he reached the big leagues in 2009. Carrasco allowed a single to Nick Markakis in the first inning and Nelson Cruz reached on a fielding error in the second, but both times the Tribe turned a double play to aid the right-hander. Caleb Joseph started the third inning with a double to right center field that started a streak of nine in a row being retired by Carrasco. Through five innings, Carrasco had tossed just 63 pitches to stifle the Orioles’ offense.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Indians sent Jimenez packing again. Cleveland exploded for three more runs, ending the former Tribe hurler’s evening. Chris Dickerson started the inning with a double off the left field wall and was sacrificed to third base by Bourn. Ramirez slapped a single to left field to bring Dickerson home and give the Indians a 4-0 lead. That margin would widen quickly when Brantley drove his 18th home run of the season into the right field seats. The two-run blast made it 6-0, Indians, and sent Jimenez to the showers.

Jimenez (4-9) lasted just four and one-third innings, allowing six runs on five hits and three walks, while striking out five on 91 pitches. Another former Indian, T.J. McFarland, finished the fifth inning without further damage.

Carrasco was the story of the evening, however. After Joseph’s double to start the third inning, he did not allow another base runner, setting down 15 Orioles in a row. After having not logged a winning decision as a starting pitcher in over three years, it took him just six days to follow up his effort last Sunday in New York. Carrasco (5-4) pitched seven innings, allowing just three hits and striking out five while tossing shutout baseball. Since returning to the starting rotation, Carrasco has yet to allow a run in 12 innings.

Last Sunday, Carrasco pitched five strong innings in New York, earning the win in a spot start. His performance on Sunday earned him another chance. Saturday’s start could be enough to earn Carrasco a spot in the rotation for the remainder of the season, especially for a staff that needs quality starters desperately.

C.C. Lee pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Nick Hagadone and Bryan Shaw combined to do the same in the ninth to give the Indians their second straight win against the American League East Division-leading Orioles. Cleveland is now 62-60 on the season, while Baltimore falls to 69-52. The Indians trail the Kansas City Royals by five games in the division race and the Seattle Mariners by four games in the Wild Card race.

Offensively, the Indians made the most out of their seven hits. Only Santana had more than one hit in the game for the Tribe. Michael Bourn, playing his first game since July 5, was held hitless. Bourn has been sidelined with a hamstring injury for the last six weeks.

The Tribe will try to climb another game closer to contention on Sunday afternoon when they go for the sweep against Baltimore. Cleveland will recall Danny Salazar (4-5, 4.88) from Triple-A Columbus to make the start, while Baltimore will counter with their own youthful project in Kevin Gausman (6-4, 3.90). Game time is slated for 1:05 p.m. at Progressive Field.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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