Carlos Carrasco set down ten men on strikes in seven innings of one-run baseball and the Cleveland Indians completed the two-game sweep of the National League’s top team, the Milwaukee Brewers, in a 3-1 final on Wednesday afternoon.
It was an encouraging afternoon for the Indians overall, as they performed well against the senior circuit’s best squad in the standings and got big efforts from Carrasco and the bullpen to make up for a fairly quiet day at the plate for the club. Carrasco improved to 7-4 on the year with a needed bounce-back start on the heels of a couple of rough outings against the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins during his last two appearances on the mound. He gave the Indians seven quality innings, scattering eight hits and a walk while striking out ten. He was able to do something that he had not in his last few outings – keep the ball down – and not surprisingly, it resulted in a solid win for the 31-year-old right-hander and his ball club.
Carrasco worked around a big threat in the second. After stranding a man in the first after a leadoff single by Lorenzo Cain, he got a big pair of strikeouts. He started the second with two more swinging strikeouts, but Milwaukee put together three straight singles from the bottom of the order to load the bases for Cain, who worked the count full before flying out to deep right.
The Indians threatened early in the day against right-hander Chase Anderson, who was making his second career start against Cleveland. He escaped the first after a one-out single from Michael Brantley and a walk by Jose Ramirez. He struck out the previous hitter, Francisco Lindor, to start the home half of the inning, and concluded the inning with back-to-back punch outs of Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso.
Cleveland missed a chance in the second after a one-out double from Yan Gomes, but got only a walk from Jason Kipnis over the next two innings. In the bottom of the fifth, however, they were able to break through against Anderson to take the lead in a big inning. Rajai Davis got the Tribe bats going with a one-out single to right-center. He stole his first of three bases on the day (becoming the oldest player in franchise history to steal three bases in a game) to move into scoring position before a walk by Lindor. Brantley tied the game with a single to left, bringing Craig Counsell to the mound for reliever Jeremy Jeffress. He was unable to slow the Indians offense down though, as Ramirez doubled Lindor home to give the Tribe a 2-1 lead. Encarnacion walked after falling behind in the count 1-2 to load the bases and Alonso kept the line moving with a five-pitch walk to force home the third run of the inning. Jeffress would figure it out from there, throwing eight of the next nine pitches for strikes to retire Kipnis and Gomes to end the inning.
Carrasco had pitched a perfect fourth with a pair of strikeouts and worked around two base runners in the fifth, using a double play grounder to escape the latter. He came back out in the sixth with a lead for the first time and struck out the first two batters of the inning before a groundout, and he got another big double play in the seventh to erase Erik Kratz’s leadoff single.
The Cleveland bats could not add on against the tough Milwaukee bullpen, but the Indians’ staff were able to hold on. Three different relievers would take the mound for the Tribe after Carrasco’s seven innings were complete, with Neil Ramirez giving up a single to Yelich to start the eighth before striking out Jesus Aguilar. Oliver Perez won a battle with Shaw in an eight-pitch at bat, striking him out looking at the knees for the second out of the eighth. Cody Allen sat down Domingo Santana with his third strikeout of the afternoon, and the Indians closer was back out for the ninth, recording a pair of strikeouts to end the ball game and earn his eleventh save of the season.
The Indians improved to 32-28 on the year and pushed their division lead back out to four and a half games, as Detroit dropped a second straight game on Wednesday. The Brewers, despite losing their third straight game, remain the top club in the National League at 37-25 on the season, holding one game lead over the Chicago Cubs.
Carrasco (7-4) gave the Indians a much improved pitching performance in the short series finale with the Brewers. He worked seven complete innings, allowing a run, eight hits, and a walk while striking out ten. He needed 109 pitches to clear seven frames, throwing 71 strikes (20 of which were first pitch strikes). He was aided by a pair of double play grounders and he kept the Brewers out of scoring position for much of the day, despite the club stranding seven men.
Anderson (4-5) got the hook in a short start after throwing 85 pitches through four and one-third. He allowed three runs on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts, falling behind 12 of the 20 batters that he faced early in the count. The Brewers’ pitching staff as a whole was able to hold the Indians to a 2-for-11 effort with runners at second or third and the team stranded ten on base. The Indians did their damage on six total hits, with two each coming from Brantley and Davis.
The Milwaukee manager Counsell was ejected in the eighth inning.
Both clubs will take Thursday off before resuming play on Friday night. The Indians will kick off a seven-game road trip with three games in Detroit against the Tigers, while the Brewers will continue the final leg of their own road trip with a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
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