Looking Back: Carrasco K’s 15 in Complete Game One-Hit Gem

It is scary to think where the Cleveland Indians may have been in the final standings without the ace-like work Carlos Carrasco gave their rotation in 2015.

It was a meteoric rise for a guy once thought to be his own worst enemy. A head hunter. A loose cannon. An inconsistent starter banished to the bullpen by the end of April of 2014.

Now, he is a name frequent to trade rumors and, with the effort he provided at the end of 2014 and for nearly all of 2015, who can blame a team for inquiring about adding a pitcher on a team-friendly contract pitching at the top of his game.

September 25, 2015, was one such effort in the star that became Carrasco. His effort on this night was historic.

Carrasco entered the game with a team-high 13 wins logged and had become the ace of the staff, picking up Corey Kluber in a year filled with mixed results for the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Carrasco was facing a Kansas City Royals team who had clinched the American League Central the night before and had the opportunity to rest some guys, but was still pitching against Major League level talent. And the Royals were still playing for plenty – they had only a small lead over the Toronto Blue Jays for the best record in the AL and were fighting to secure home field advantage for the playoffs.

The Indians jumped out to an early lead, getting an unexpected burst of power from light-hitting utility guy Jose Ramirez, who homered deep to right-center off of starter Edinson Volquez with one out in the first. Carrasco countered by striking out Ben Zobrist and Alex Rios to end his half of the first.

Another long ball from an unlikely source powered the Indians to a 3-0 lead through one and a half. A one-out Chris Johnson single was followed by a fence-clearing shot from Abraham Almonte. Carrasco struck out each of the first two men in the bottom of the frame, making four straight Royals out swinging, before a grounder ended the inning.

The fourth strikeout was his 200th of the season.

The Indians stranded a pair in the top of the third, sending Carrasco out for his third frame. A one-out walk by Drew Butera gave KC their first base runner, but a double play ball erased him to end the inning.

Carrasco got back on the K train in the fourth and fifth, striking out the first two men of each inning swinging, giving him eight swinging strikeouts through the game’s halfway mark. A leadoff walk in the sixth by Christian Colon gave the club their second base runner, but a fly out and a pair of groundouts ended the “threat”.

Volquez was done after six, lifted for lefty reliever Franklin Morales. Almonte walked to lead off the inning and the Indians’ power surge continued with a homer to left from Roberto Perez to extend the lead to 5-0.

After the stretch, Carrasco made it nine Ks on the night, sitting down Zobrist swinging. Having faced just one over the minimum and the no-hitter still intact through 19 outs, Rios spoiled Carrasco’s pursuit of the no-no with a single to center. With the first hit out of the way, Carrasco got back to being aggressive, sitting down both Paulo Orlando and Jonny Gomes swinging to end the inning.

“In Tampa, I knew I had a no-hitter,” Carrasco shared following the game. “This one I felt way different. I really didn’t know I had a no-hitter because I was playing with those guys over there and I was talking [in the dugout]. I really didn’t pay attention to that.”

“Nervous? I don’t really get nervous,” KC manager Ned Yost was quoted after the loss about Carrasco’s no-hitter deep into the game. “I was a little concerned.” After bursting into laughter, he repeated “a little concerned.”

With a healthy lead and pitching with utter dominance, Carrasco returned for the eighth. Three straight swinging strikeouts made for a stretch of six straight outs via strikeout and five consecutive batters retired in that manner. Meanwhile, the Indians padded the lead with another run on a fielder’s choice in the top of the ninth.

“I don’t know if he made a mistake all night,” said the Royals first baseman Butera. “He pitched really well. Changed speeds. And obviously had that wipeout slider.”

Carrasco made it six straight strikeouts to start the ninth, sending Francisco Pena back to the dugout with the 15th strikeout of the night. He breezed through Jarrod Dyson and Zobrist on grounders to end the game.

“He was just simply electric,” Yost shared on Carrasco’s night, “a 97 mile per hour four-seamer, a 94 mile per hour two-seamer with a lot of action and a tremendous split, hard slider, throwing them all for strikes. That’s as good of stuff as we’ve seen all year long.”

Carrasco earned his 14th win of the season and threw his first shutout since September 17th of the previous season. It was the second time in 2015 that Carrasco took a no-hitter into the seventh inning or later in a game. It was the third time he allowed one hit or less while retiring at least 26 batters. It was the sixth game that a Cleveland pitcher brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

“He was unreal today, man,” said his catcher, Perez. “He pounded the zone.”

Even more impressive, he became just the fifth pitcher in Major League history to strike out 15 batters or more while allowing one or fewer hits in a shutout on the road, matching the same feat accomplished by Max Scherzer earlier in the season for Washington. He joined Curt Schilling (2002 – Arizona), Nolan Ryan (1973 – California), and Tom Seaver (1970 – New York Mets) on the impressive guest list. He was just the fourth AL pitcher to throw such a shutout in a game, at home or on the road.

When he crossed the 200-strikeout threshold, he joined Kluber as the first pair of Indians pitchers to reach that mark in the same season since Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant did it in 1967 and 1968.

He was the first Indians pitcher to throw a shutout with at least 15 strikeouts and one hit or less.

All 15 strikeouts were swinging. Carrasco made the Royals miss on 40% of their swings on the night and they chased 49% of his pitches that were out of the strike zone, which was the case on 12 of the 15 strikeouts. They were 0-for-17 against his off-speed stuff with a dozen of the strikeouts.

“Carlos, by his own admission, told me in the first inning, ‘I feel lethargic,’” said manager Terry Francona following the win. “I said, ‘well, go as hard as you can, as long as you can and we’ll get you out of there.’ I hope he feels lethargic next time.”

In a disappointing season overall for Cleveland, Carrasco’s gem in this game was one of the more memorable and dominating moments in recent memory.

Said Yost, “Carrasco would have beaten anybody tonight with that stuff.” Royals starter Volquez shared a similar sentiment. “It was a great night for Carrasco and a bad night for us.”

Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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