Jose Ramirez blew out the candles at Progressive Field on Saturday evening with a bases loaded single with one out in the tenth inning to give the Cleveland Indians a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers, but the bigger news of the day was far less jubilant as starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco left the game after two pitches after being struck by a line drive on the mound.
Carrasco left the playing field with what was initially identified as a right hand contusion, but x-rays later confirmed much greater fears – the number two man in the starting rotation had suffered a non-displaced fracture of his fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand and his season is over, dealing a devastating blow to the Indians’ playoff hopes while the team reduced its magic number to seven with the victory.
Terry Francona managed an impressive game from the dugout as his bullpen went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander as neither team was able to do anything substantial with their bats until Ramirez celebrated his 24th birthday with the game-winner.
Detroit had just four hits on the night. Two came in the first inning, including Ian Kinsler’s liner off of Carrasco’s pitching hand for an infield single. Francona and the trainer came out to the mound, but Carrasco was clearly in pain and exited the game.
Jeff Manship allowed a two-out double down the left field line to Miguel Cabrera after coming on for Carrasco, but he escaped unharmed. Cabrera singled again to lead off the fourth, but the Tigers would not reach base on a hit again until the ninth, when J.D. Martinez singled with two outs off of Andrew Miller.
Cleveland put two on against Verlander with back-to-back walks to start the second, but stranded both runners in scoring position. The uncharacteristically wild Tigers vet walked two more the following inning, but struck out Mike Napoli swinging to leave both standing.
Verlander took a no-hitter into the sixth, when Jason Kipnis started the frame with a single to center, but he was unable to advance further. That would be all Cleveland would do against Verlander, who easily made his best start against Cleveland this season.
Alex Wilson came on for the eighth and the Indians made it interesting, but came short of home plate once again. Roberto Perez struck out before a walk by Carlos Santana and a ground rule double to right by Kipnis to put two on with just one out. Wilson finished off the inning by striking out Francisco Lindor and Napoli as Cleveland fell short again.
The Indians bullpen had effectively shut down the Tigers all game long. Kyle Crockett retired both men he faced. Cody Anderson faced the minimum over two innings, allowing Cabrera’s single before a double play ball. Zach McAllister followed suit in the fourth, using ten pitches to retire the side. Perci Garner dodged some trouble after hitting Jose Iglesias, who got all the way to third after a steal and a groundout, but Garner struck out Victor Martinez with runners on the corners to get out of the giant jam.
Bryan Shaw walked outfielder Martinez to lead off the seventh before setting the next three down in order. Cody Allen worked through the minimum in the eighth and Miller allowed a two-out single in the ninth, but nothing more.
The Indians threatened again in the bottom of the ninth, getting the winning run to third base before stranding him there. Bruce Rondon got a pair of liners for two quick outs before Tyler Naquin blooped a single into center. Rajai Davis replaced him on the bases and stole second standing up. It led to an intentional walk of Abraham Almonte and both men moved up on a double steal with pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer at the plate to face reliever Justin Wilson. A grounder to third ended the inning, forcing extras.
Miller breezed through the tenth, striking out pinch-hitters Casey McGehee and James McCann before a grounder from Iglesias ended the inning. Santana started the tenth against Wilson (4-5, 4.28 ERA) with a four-pitch walk, but was erased on a bad bunt from Kipnis. Kipnis advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third as Lindor was walked. Napoli was intentionally walked to set up force plays, but Ramirez started his birthday celebration in the center of the diamond with a perfectly placed base hit up the middle for the game-winner on a day marred with darkness.
Cleveland improved to 86-62 on the season and won its 49th game at Progressive Field this season with seven more to play at the park. The Tigers fell to 78-70, eight games in back of the Tribe in the AL Central.
The Indians’ magic number dropped to seven games as they improved to 13-1 against the Tigers this season.
CARRASCO DONE FOR YEAR
The verdict on Carrasco was the worst case scenario for Cleveland and a significant blow to the hopes for a deep run into October.
Carrasco will finish the 2016 season with an 11-8 record and a 3.32 ERA. He struck out 150 batters in 146 1/3 innings with a 1.15 WHIP and .240 batting average against over 25 starts in a season that was already shortened by injury back at the end of April.
Miller (8-1, 1.59), the ninth pitcher to take the mound for Cleveland in the game, came away with his eighth victory of the season with two innings of scoreless relief. He allowed a single to the third batter that he faced, but struck out three while firing 35 pitches. He will likely be unavailable for the club in the series finale on Sunday.
“Right when it happened, I called [bullpen coach Jason Bere] down there and said, `Tell them to put their seat belts on because they’re all going to pitch, and we’re going to win,’” said Francona. “I mean, Carrasco aside, that was a fun game to be a part of.”
VERLANDER DEALT TOUGH NO-DECISION
Verlander took a tough no-decision in his fourth start against the Indians this season after posting an 0-3 record against them in his first three attempts.
He allowed just one hit and struck out seven in seven innings of work, but did match a season-high four walks in the ball game.
Cleveland was just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, getting that lone hit on Ramirez’s game winner. The Indians left 12 men on the bases as a team.
WANTED FOR THEFT
Davis picked up two more stolen bases in a clutch pinch-running situation in the ninth inning to push his AL-leading total to 40.
The Indians were 4-for-4 stealing bases on the night.
GET THE BROOMS
The Indians will go for the sweep of the Tigers on Sunday as Trevor Bauer (11-7, 4.06) will take on left-hander Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.81). Bauer has a 4-2 record in his career against the Tigers, including a pair of wins this season (one in relief). Norris is coming off of a career-high eleven strikeouts against the Minnesota Twins his last time out.
First pitch on a busy afternoon from downtown Cleveland is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer