For the third time in four starts, the Cleveland Indians got a complete game effort from their stellar starting staff as Carlos Carrasco threw a four-hit shutout against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday afternoon in a 6-0 final.
Following the trend of impressive starting pitching this week, Carrasco matched the efforts provided by Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer by going the distance. He matched Kluber by shutting out the opposition as the Indians (43-30) pushed their American League Central Division lead to a season-high five games, made possible by a lopsided loss for the Kansas City Royals against the Houston Astros.
Cleveland got Carrasco an early lead and never looked back, tagging Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez again with a barrage of home runs. They wasted no time, as Carlos Santana started the game with a bang.
The 32-year-old Sanchez was making his first start since May 31, when he lasted just three innings and gave up six runs against the Los Angeles Angels. His outing would be better and longer on Saturday, but the results were little different. On the second pitch of the game, Santana took Sanchez deep to right with his team-leading 16th homer of the season and his third leading off a game. One out later, Francisco Lindor followed with a solo blast of his own to right and the Indians were out to a 2-0 lead.
Rajai Davis extended the lead to three in the second with a two-out single to right, driving in Tyler Naquin, who doubled before him. Davis was erased from first after wandering off the bag too far on the throw to the plate that was cut off and redirected to first base.
The Indians kept the runs coming in the third after loading the bases. Santana walked to lead off the inning and Jason Kipnis singled him to second. After a fly out from Lindor, Mike Napoli walked to load the bases and Jose Ramirez grounded into a fielder’s choice deep in the hole between short and third. Napoli was forced at second for the second out, but Santana scored to make it 4-0, Cleveland.
Carrasco had a base runner on in four of the first five innings before settling in to keep the Tigers at bay until the ninth. The Tigers stranded a one-out first inning double by Cameron Maybin, a leadoff single in the second from Nick Castellanos, a two-out walk by Castellanos in the fourth, and a two-out double from Jose Iglesias in the fifth.
Alex Wilson relieved Sanchez to start the sixth and had a good two-inning outing, allowing only a one-out triple to Naquin in the sixth. Ex-Indians reliever Mark Lowe took over in the eighth and padded the Indians lead as Lindor laced his second homer of the game over the wall in right to make it a 5-0 game. For good measure, Yan Gomes took Lowe deep with one down in the ninth to make it a 6-0 score.
The Tigers (38-37) have now dropped two in a row and have lost eight straight times this season to the Indians, including five times at home. They are third in the division, six games in back of Cleveland.
CARRASCO’S COMPLETE GAME GEM
Carrasco (3-2, 2.73 ERA), backed by the early run support from his offense, breezed through the afternoon in limiting the Tigers to just five base runners, only two of whom reached second base on the day. He allowed four hits (two singles, two doubles) and walked one batter while striking out seven.
“Right from the get-go, right from the first inning, he’s throwing 92-93 MPH split,” said Gomes. “He gained his confidence early in the ball game.”
Carrasco threw a season-high 117 pitches (including 82 strikes) while throwing his first complete game since his one-hit shutout in Kansas City on September 25 of last season. His previous longest outing this season was eight innings, back on April 13.
“I feel strong. I start doing my shoulder exercise,” said Carrasco. “It took me three starts to get back my normal routine.”
Sanchez (4-8, 6.06) may have returned to the rotation for the first time in nearly a month, but his struggles against the Indians this season continued as he took the loss for the third time against them in as many starts. He lasted five innings, allowing four runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He did manage to keep the damage at a minimum, but the lack of support provided by his teammates against Carrasco made a win an impossibility.
“I tried to pitch backward in the first inning and use my offspeed pitches to set things up, but they were waiting on them, so it didn’t work,” said Sanchez after the game. “My fastball was good and my location was good. I just tried to pitch backward and they were waiting on my slow pitches.”
DAVIS EXTENDS HITTING STREAK
Davis’ single in the second inning extended his hitting streak to seven straight games. During the hot stretch at the plate, the Tribe’s outfielder has gone 11-for-26 (.423) with two doubles, a homer, four RBI, and six stolen bases.
LINDOR GOES DEEP TWICE
Lindor homered in the first and again in the eighth, giving him ten on the season. Both shots came left-handed and went into the right field corner.
It was the first time in Lindor’s brief MLB career that he has homered twice in a game. He now has six home runs in June, after hitting just four in April and May combined.
BIG BOPPERS SILENCED AGAIN
Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez combined to go 1-for-8 on the day with a pair of strikeouts. The duo is now 10-for-56 (.179) against Cleveland this season with just one RBI.
MORE FUN WITH NUMBERS
The Indians are now 23-10 against the AL Central this season. The Indians are now 32-7 when scoring first and have won 18 of their last 19 games when doing so.
KIPNIS EXITS IN SEVENTH
Cleveland’s Kipnis left the game in the seventh inning with the score still close. While it was initially reported that he left the game with an illness, he clarified a Paul Hoynes tweet with his own on Twitter after the game, stating “No sickness, no cramping… Just tightened up! All good [thumbs up emoji] #toomanytriples”
MOYA MISSES START
Outfielder Steven Moya missed the game for the Tigers with soreness in his knee.
After review, the final score of Friday’s game has been officially changed to 7-5. What was originally a game-ending double play flyout from Cabrera was changed to a sacrifice fly, and then an out at first. The run that scored, but was not initially credited, was allowed as the Indians did not make the out at second base to, in essence, challenge that the runner had left the base early. Since the out was instead retired at first, the run stood and was retroactively applied.
GOING FOR ANOTHER SWEEP
The Indians will look to pull off their third straight sweep and their third consecutive sweep over the Detroit Tigers in the Sunday matinee. Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.32) will start for the Tribe, while Justin Verlander (7-5, 3.78) will oppose for the Tigers. Verlander is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA against Cleveland this year and has not won against them since April 17, 2014.
First pitch of the finale of the three-game series is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET Sunday.
Photo: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio