Santana Celebrates Birthday with a Bang as Carrasco Blanks Astros; Indians 2, Astros 0

Did the Tribe Win Last Night? Yes, they did! The Indians came back in Game 2 of the season to defeat the Astros in a 2-0 pitchers’ duel. Carlos Carrasco faced Scott Feldman, and both pitchers managed to keep the other team’s bats quiet for most of the night. The Indians scored on two solo home runs and managed to sneak out of some sticky situations when the Astros found their way on base throughout the game. Despite a defensive bobble by Lonnie Chisenhall during what could have been an inning-ending double play in the seventh inning, the Indians kept the Astros’ base runners away from home plate to even the series at 1-1.

The Indians totaled seven hits throughout the game, and the Astros four. Despite their two runs on the board, the Tribe was 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and left five men on base.

Carrasco notched his first win of the season, while Cody Allen struck out the side to end the ninth and gather his first save of 2015.

WP: Carlos Carrasco (1-0)LP: Scott Feldman (0-1)

Key Inning: In the top of the fourth inning during his second at-bat of the game, birthday boy Carlos Santana hit the Indians first home run of the year and crossed the plate to give the Indians their first run of the season. Following that second at-bat, Santana had hit .480 (12-for-25) with 6 home runs and 14 RBI on his past seven birthdays, dating back to 2009 during his time in Double-A.

Santana’s solo home run gave the Indians a 1-0 lead, which they held until the top of the eighth inning when Mike Aviles crushed a homer to left field to up their lead to 2-0.

Player of the Game: It was a celebration of the Carloses tonight for the Tribe, though Carrasco’s performance outshined Santana’s. Carrasco had a rough start last season, in which he spent time in the bullpen after a rocky start with the Indians rotation. However, after work with pitching coaches and a mindset shift from his relief experience, Carrasco came back to stun fans as part of the starting rotation. He posted a 1.30 ERA in his last 10 starts of the season, giving up 45 hits in 69 innings and allowing only 11 runs. In his first start this season, Carrasco went 6.1 innings and struck out 10 batters, all swinging. He held the Astros to three hits and walked only one batter while allowing no runs. It was his first start since signing his four-year contract extension on Tuesday, and the performance certainly solidified why the Indians would be looking to keep Carrasco under their control for seasons to come.

Standings: The Indians are now 1-1 on the season, half a game back of Detroit who leads the American League Central with a 2-0 record. This hardly means much during the first week of the season, and the standings will shift greatly throughout the coming games.

Etc.: Michael Brantley was scratched from the lineup prior to game time due to lower back stiffness, which also plagued him during Spring Training. He was replaced in left field by Aviles, while David Murphy remained as the designated hitter despite being a traditional outfielder. However, the substitution paid off, as Aviles homered deep to left field in the eighth inning. Michael Bourn followed Aviles’ home run with a hit of his own but was stranded on second base at the end of the inning.

Though they didn’t amount to runs, Jason Kipnis demonstrated that he is getting back to his old self following the oblique injury that set him back last season. Kipnis went 2-for-4 on the night, getting both hits off Astros’ starter Feldman.

Analysis: Overall, the Tribe’s bats looked much hotter during the second game of the season than they did on Opening Day. Coming into today’s game, Brandon Moss had the most experience against Feldman, though he boasted only a .235 average (4-for-17) against the pitcher. He smoked a ball to first in the sixth inning, but was unable to capitalize on his experience against Feldman in his other at bats.

The Indians defense left much to be desired last season, and the decision to substitute Aviles in left field instead of Murphy speaks volumes to that end. In his career, Murphy has played 598 games in left field and committed 11 errors, giving him a .988 fielding percentage in left. He’s committed 16 total errors in the outfield throughout his whole career.

Aviles, on the other hand, has never made an error in 32 games in left field in three seasons.

Further, the decision to leave Ryan Raburn on the bench demonstrates that the Indians did seem to learn something from his stint in left field last season. Everyone seems to remember that throw-turned-spike straight into the ground.

Up Next: The Indians will attempt to win their first series of the year tomorrow afternoon in Houston. It will be a battle of the youngsters, as Trevor Bauer is matched up against rookie Astros’ right-hander Asher Wojciechowski. Last season, Bauer posted a 4.18 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 153 innings. He struggled at the Major League level early in his career, but seems to have finally cemented himself into the Indians rotation. Wojciechowski will be making his Major League debut tomorrow afternoon, after going 4-4 with a 4.74 ERA in 15 games at Triple-A last season. The Indians and Astros will close out their series at 2:10 p.m. tomorrow at Minute Maid Park before the Tribe returns to Cleveland on Friday.

Photo: Patric Schneider/AP Photo

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