With the way Carlos Carrasco was pitching on Friday night at Progressive Field, he was not going to need too much run support. So, of course, the Cleveland bats put up eleven runs as the Indians destroyed the Detroit Tigers in an 11-2 final.
Carrasco got the help that he did not necessarily need as he fired seven innings of two-run baseball while striking out eleven Tigers hitters to win his fifth straight decision. He improved to 10-3 in his final start of the first half. He pitched with a big lead after a five-run third inning by the Tribe off of Detroit starter Jordan Zimmermann and never looked back.
His effort was also a historic one for the record books as he pulled off the “immaculate inning” in the fifth by striking out the side while needing just nine pitches, becoming just the second pitcher in Cleveland Indians history to accomplish the feat and just the 84th to do so in Major League Baseball history (Justin Masterson was the only Tribe pitcher to do it previously, recording his in 2014).
The victory for the Indians (46-39) was also a rare win in the first game of a home series for the club.
Both teams had runners on the bases in the early going, but were unable to push any across. That changed in the third when Jason Kipnis’ dominance of Zimmermann in their careers continued with a one-out double to right to start the rally. Francisco Lindor reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners before a stolen base by the All-Star shortstop. Michael Brantley delivered with a two-run double to right to put Cleveland on the board, 2-0. Edwin Encarnacion grounded out to short for the second out before Jose Ramirez legged out a hustle infield single that scored Brantley and kept the inning alive. Lonnie Chisenhall followed by sending the next pitch into orbit, as his swing brought him to a knee while his two-run shot to right made it a 5-0 ball game.
Detroit got a run back in the fourth, not wasting another opportunity with a runner on base. Alex Avila singled to start the inning and moved to second on a walk by new All-Star Justin Upton. Miguel Cabrera grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to put the inning on the brink of ending, but J.D. Martinez singled to center to make it a 5-1 game.
The Indians knocked out Zimmermann after he allowed the first two batters to reach in the bottom of the fourth, but reliever Chad Bell worked out of it after walking Kipnis to load the bases. A fielder’s choice force at home was followed by a double play ball by Brantley.
Carrasco struck out the side in the fifth, needing just nine pitches in his historic effort. He threw first pitch strikes looking to Nicholas Castellanos, Mikie Mahtook, and Jose Iglesias. Mahtook and Iglesias fouled off the second pitches, and all three hitters struck out swinging on the third pitches of their at bats.
The Indians right-hander would strike out three more in the sixth, but the inning required a little more work than the previous one. Ian Kinsler and Avila both singled to start the inning before Upton struck out swinging. Cabrera jumped on the first pitch that he saw and singled to right, knocking in a run and putting runners on the corners for the middle of the order. Carrasco buckled down and struck out both Martinezes swinging to end the threat, leaving it a 5-2 game.
The Tribe rewarded Carrasco’s big efforts by blowing the game open in the bottom of the next half inning. Bradley Zimmer started the sixth with a first pitch blast to center off of Bell to make it 6-2. Gomes and Kipnis each walked, bringing manager Brad Ausmus back to the center of the diamond for Alex Wilson. Lindor lined a triple to right to clear both base runners and he scored on a single to center by Brantley to put Cleveland up, 9-2.
Carrasco retired a seventh straight out via punch out with a swinging strikeout of Castellanos to start the seventh. A single by Mahtook was erased on another double play around the horn, sending the Indians bats back to the plate for more fun.
Blaine Hardy entered in relief, freshly called up Thursday from Triple-A Toledo. Zimmer busted down the line to beat Hardy to the bag for an infield single and moved to second on another walk by Gomes. Kipnis grounded into a force before Lindor singled to left to score Zimmer from third. Brantley followed with a fly to right that the Detroit right fielder Martinez fielded, but his throw in lacked a sense of urgency and Kipnis broke for home on the tag up and beat the relay in a close play to put the Indians up, 11-2.
Zach McAllister worked the eighth, giving up a leadoff single to Dixon Machado before Avila grounded into an unconventional 3-5-1 double play. Shawn Armstrong pitched the ninth, allowing one runner to reach on a two-out error by Ramirez, but promptly retired Castellanos on a fly out on the next pitch to end the ball game.
The Indians were once again led in the dugout by bench coach Brad Mills as manager Terry Francona recovered at the Cleveland Clinic from a heart procedure to help correct a cardiac arrhythmia. He will not rejoin the team until after the All-Star break and will miss his managerial duties at Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
Carrasco worked seven innings, giving up two runs on nine hits. He walked one and struck out eleven while aggressive with the strike zone. He threw 71 of 97 pitches for strikes, including 20 of 27 first pitches in his three trips through the Tigers order. He got 17 swinging strikes on the night in leading the Tribe to victory.
Zimmermann left after three-plus innings, charged with five runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out a pair, throwing 45 of 73 pitches over for strikes in taking his seventh loss of the season in another rough outing in his career against Cleveland.
The Indians had contributions all throughout the lineup. Lindor was 3-for-5 with a triple, two runs scored, and three runs batted in. Brantley was 2-for-4 with a double, one run scored, and four knocked in. Zimmer went 3-for-5 with his fifth homer of the year and two runs scored. Kipnis, Ramirez, Chisenhall, and Abraham Almonte each had two hits, with Kipnis reaching base safely four times (two doubles, two walks) and Chisenhall driving in two while hitting his 12th homer of the season. Gomes drew three walks in five trips to the plate.
The Tigers had a special moment in the second inning when, with two outs in the frame, the former Indian Victor Martinez singled to left for his 2,000th career hit. The former Cleveland fan favorite was showered with a standing ovation by the Progressive Field fans and the ball was removed from play, after Encarnacion jokingly gestured of throwing the game ball to the fans.
The two teams will pick things up in a Fox telecast at 7:15 PM ET on Saturday night. The Tigers will send Justin Verlander (5-5, 4.96 ERA) to the mound, looking for an improvement upon his last start. He allowed seven runs on nine hits in just three and one-third innings in a loss to Cleveland last Sunday. In the pitching rematch of that game, Mike Clevinger (4-3, 3.33) will toe the rubber for the Tribe. He shut the Tigers down with six innings of quality baseball, allowing just a run on two hits while walking five and striking out seven.
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