The Toronto Blue Jays were just what the doctor ordered to cure the Cleveland Indians’ early season blues. Carlos Carrasco bounced back from a rough debut with 12 strikeouts in five innings of work and the offense provided a season-high seven runs in a 7-2 defeat of the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon.
Carrasco handled most of the work himself, shutting down the Blue Jays until two runs in his final inning of work in the fifth. At that point, his teammates had paced him with four runs before tacking on three more in the next two innings.
The Indians got on the board early against a former friend, left-hander Thomas Pannone, who was one of two minor leaguers traded by Cleveland to Toronto for reliever Joe Smith in 2017. Carrasco struck out a pair in the first before a two-out double from Justin Smoak, but he left the runner at second on a groundout by Randal Grichuk. The Indians struck quickly, as Greg Allen led off the home half with his first hit of the year, a double to left. He moved to third on a grounder to short by Jose Ramirez and after a strikeout by Jordan Luplow, Carlos Santana laced a sharp single up the middle to put the Indians up, 1-0. The base hit extended Santana’s hitting streak to six straight and his on-base streak to seven consecutive to open the campaign.
Carrasco walked Rowdy Tellez to start the second, but struck out two more batters in a quick inning. Pannone matched Carrasco’s two Ks in the inning, and Carrasco got his fifth and sixth strikeouts of the first three frames after hitting Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to start the third.
In the bottom of the third, the Indians got to Pannone in a 30-pitch inning for the young southpaw. Eric Stamets got into the hit column with his first Major League hit (after going 0-for-16 to start his career) with a double off of the wall in left. He moved to third on a passed ball before Allen struck out looking. J. Ramirez legged out an infield single to third and stole second before Luplow walked to load the bases. Santana struck out looking on a 3-2 fastball down the middle for the second out, but Hanley Ramirez worked the count full and drew a bases loaded walk (the Indians’ fourth of the season) to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead. Jake Bauers joined in the scoring, sending a single through the shifted infield to score a pair and double the Indians’ lead to 4-0. Charlie Montoyo removed Pannone for 19-year-old Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano, who walked Roberto Perez to reload the bases before Max Moroff lined out to right.
Carrasco had to work a little harder in the fourth inning as he dealt with base runners for the fourth straight inning. He struck out Grichuk before a single by Tellez. He struck out Brandon Drury for the second out before Danny Jansen doubled to left to put two in scoring position. The Jays, however, could not get on the scoreboard as Carrasco struck out his third of the inning and ninth on the afternoon, sitting down Billy McKinney looking.
Luciano retired the side in order in the bottom of the fourth before his teammates got on the board. After Carrasco struck out Gurriel for his tenth K, red hot Freddy Galvis homered to right to make it a 4-1 game. Teoscar Hernandez singled to right before a strikeout by Smoak. Grichuk made it a 4-2 game with a double to center, but Carrasco struck out his 12th batter of the day as he froze Tellez looking to prevent Toronto from getting any closer.
The Indians responded and got the runs right back for Carrasco in the home half of the fifth. Luplow reached on an infield single to third and Santana singled to center. H. Ramirez walked to load the bases again. A wild pitch from Luciano allowed Luplow to score to make it 5-2. Bauers grounded out for the first out before Montoyo went to his bullpen for Sam Gaviglio, who got Perez to ground into a fielder’s choice. Santana scored on the play to give the Indians a second run in the inning. Gaviglio retired the next two to stop the bleeding.
The Indians added one more Mario coin in the seventh, as J. Ramirez did all the work himself. The switch-hitter doubled to left-center with one out in the inning, stole third, and scored on a wild throw from the catcher Jansen to make it a 7-2 edge for the Tribe.
Cleveland’s bullpen handled things for Carrasco to protect his win. Dan Otero worked an inning and a third, allowing two hits. Tyler Olson worked three perfect outs over two innings. Adam Cimber struck out one in two-thirds of an inning. Jon Edwards pitched the ninth, giving up two hits to put two in scoring position before getting Smoak to fly to center to end the game.
The Indians (5-3) have now won three in a row and are 4-1 at home on the season. The Blue Jays (3-7) have now lost all three road games this season.
CARRASCO WITH VIDEO GAME NUMBERS
Carrasco retired 12 of his 15 outs via strikeout, the second pitcher this season to do so. He worked five innings on the day and threw 90 pitches, allowing two runs in the fifth on six total hits while walking just one. It was a big improvement for the Tribe’s number three starter after a rough outing last Sunday against Minnesota to start his season.
According to the Indians’ statistic department, Carrasco is the first player in franchise history to strike out 12 batters in the first five innings of a game.
“He had a lot of strikeouts. He had to pitch out of a couple of situations, which he did. I just thought that because his first was a little shorter than we’d hoped, getting up around 90 [pitches] was enough,” said Indians manager Terry Francona after the game. “We could have let him go a little bit more, but just thought he ended the inning on a good note and set up our bullpen.”
PESKY SPOT START FROM PANNONE
Pannone was a pest for the strikeout-happy Indians, but he could not keep them off of the scoreboard in the early innings. He lasted just two and two-thirds, allowing four runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts while taking his second loss of the season.
He made the spot start for Montoyo on Saturday, who felt it was better to use the team’s long man for a few innings than deal with the roster shuffle with Triple-A Buffalo so early in the season. Pannone was expected to throw 60-65 pitches, but he got there earlier than Toronto likely hoped after matching his pitch count in the first two innings in a 30-pitch third.
Allen, who started the year hitless through his first 12 at bats (despite driving in three runs thus far), led off the game with his first hit and first extra base hit of the season. He came around to score his first run of the year on Santana’s single.
Stamets got off the schneid on a barreled up blast to the wall in left in the bottom of the third that ended his 0-for-16 slump to open his big league career.
“Oh, it was awesome,” shared Stamets following the game. “Obviously I haven’t been making a lot of contact. It’s good to get that monkey off of my back and I can relax a little bit and let them come now.”
“They’re dousing him in the shower with beer,” shared Francona. “Everyone’s pretty fired up for him.”
Jason Kipnis was back in the starting lineup for the Columbus Clippers on Saturday at second base as they host the Indianapolis Indians. He went 0-for-3 in his first rehab appearance on Friday night and was lifted after seven innings of work.
Carlos Gonzalez, who is 4-for-9 in Columbus’ first two games, was not in the starting lineup for the Clippers with a scheduled day off. He is expected to be in the lineup for Columbus on Sunday in the Clippers’ series finale with Indianapolis.
BUST OUT THE BROOMS
The Indians will use their first Sunday home date to go for the rare four-game sweep.
Cleveland will call on right-hander Mike Clevinger (0-0, 0.00 ERA) for the second time during the team’s six-game homestand. He pitched a gem in the Indians’ home opener on Monday afternoon, allowing just one hit and three walks while striking out a dozen in Cleveland’s 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Toronto will turn to right-hander Marcus Stroman (0-1, 1.42 ERA), who will make his third start of the season. The Blue Jays have lost both of his starts, but he has done his part to keep the club in the game both times. He threw seven shutout innings of two-hit baseball in a no-decision in his season debut on March 28 against Detroit and allowed two runs in five and two-thirds innings in a loss against Baltimore on April 2.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images