It was a new month, but the same old results for Indians starter Carlos Carrasco on Wednesday afternoon as he won his fifth straight game with a quality seven and one-third innings of work in Cleveland’s 2-0 shutout of the Minnesota Twins to claim the series finale between the two clubs.
Carrasco would have cruised to an easy win, but the Cleveland offense had a tough time getting going against an unfamiliar left-hander, Adalberto Mejia, who got the start for Minnesota in place of the traded Lance Lynn.
For five innings, there was little to show on the Target Field scoreboard. Mejia allowed five base runners, but the Indians could not string anything together. Francisco Lindor started the game with a walk, but was stranded. Two reached in the third as Erik Gonzalez singled with one out and Lindor drew his second walk of the day, but Rajai Davis grounded into a double play. Two more got on base in the fourth as Edwin Encarnacion walked with one out and Brandon Guyer reached on a hit by pitch before Yonder Alonso lined into a double play.
Carrasco had an easier path through the first half of the game. He retired eleven in a row before a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth by Jorge Polanco ended any no-hit bids on the day. He left that runner as Logan Morrison lined out to center. Carrasco got a double play ball to escape the fifth, as Miguel Sano singled to lead off the frame before being erased on a 1-6-3 double play off of the bat of Max Kepler.
The Indians took the day’s first lead in the sixth off of reliever Matt Magill. With one out, Davis reached on a single to short. Jose Ramirez got a fastball down the middle on his second pitch and sent a single to right to put runners on the corners. With Encarnacion at the plate, Davis and Ramirez attempted the delayed double steal. Ramirez was thrown out at second, but Davis scored with the “theft” of home to put the Tribe on top, 1-0. Encarnacion would double to left and pinch-hitter Leonys Martin flied to center in his first at bat for Cleveland.
The Twins had their first real threat in the bottom of the sixth. After Carrasco struck out the first two batters of the inning, Joe Mauer tripled to right. With the tying run just 90 feet away, Carrasco battled Eddie Rosario, who fouled off four pitches before striking out on the sixth pitch of the at bat to end the inning with Carrasco’s tenth strikeout of the game.
Cleveland would get a runner in scoring position in both the seventh and eighth innings, but could not advance the runners beyond second. Meanwhile, Carrasco continued his strong showing, retiring the side in order after the stretch. Kepler started the eighth with a single, but Carrasco got Mitch Garver on a fly ball to center to end his afternoon. Manager Terry Francona turned to the bullpen with Carrasco at 101 pitches on the day, bringing on Brad Hand. The All-Star left-hander walked Robbie Grossman in a ten-pitch duel, but newest Twin Logan Forsythe grounded into a double play pinch-hitting for Ehire Adrianza, as Indians shortstop Lindor made arguably the play of the game with the glove to kick off the twin Twins killer.
The Indians got a big insurance run in the ninth against Minnesota closer Fernando Rodney. Martin went the opposite way to left-center for a leadoff single and he moved to third on a throwing error on a fielder’s choice by Alonso. With runners on the corners, Yan Gomes drove in the second run of the game with a single to center, giving Cleveland a 2-0 lead. The pair on base would move up 90 feet on a wacky wild pitch from Rodney, who caught a cleat delivering a pitch for the second time in the series. Melky Cabrera and Gonzalez each grounded out before Lindor was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Davis was cut down swinging to leave three big runners on base.
Down to their final three outs, the Twins would get a runner on, but would cause no further issues. Hand returned for the five-out save, striking out Mauer to start the inning and getting Rosario on a grounder to second. Polanco dropped down a surprise bunt to third to reach safely, but Hand struck out Morrison swinging to end the ball game.
For the first time this season, the Indians (59-48) won a series from the Twins (49-58), moving to 5-7 against them this year with seven left to play. Cleveland now has a ten-game lead in the American League Central over Minnesota.
Carrasco improved to 13-5 on the season with seven and one-third shutout innings. He allowed four hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out ten in one of his more impressive outings of the year. He threw 72 of 101 pitches on the day for strikes and was largely unhittable in winning his fifth straight decision. Hand’s save was his second with the Tribe as the multi-inning weapon allowed a hit and a walk while striking out a pair in an inning and two-thirds.
“That’s part of how we feel we can be a good team,” said Francona after the game. “Every time we send a starter out there, we feel like we’ve got a chance.”
Mejia filled in admirably in the Twins rotation, making his third start and fourth appearance of the year. He would not factor in the decision after firing off five scoreless innings. He allowed just one hit, but walked three and hit a batter while striking out two. Magill would take his second loss of the season after allowing a run on three hits in the sixth.
Prior to the game, the Indians formally placed Martin on the 25-man roster and optioned Greg Allen back to Triple-A Columbus. Forsythe joined the Twins before sunrise and made his debut late in the contest.
The Indians and Twins will both take Thursday off before picking up action on Friday. The Tribe will return home to Progressive Field to host a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. The Twins will stay home to host the Kansas City Royals.
The two clubs will meet again on Monday in Cleveland to kick off a four-game series.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images