A solo homer from Jake Bauers in the fifth inning marked the only time a base runner crossed the plate on Wednesday night as Carlos Carrasco and Nick Wittgren combined on a three-hit shutout to complete the three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners in a 1-0 victory from T-Mobile Park.
With Carrasco’s sloppy start to the season, the dangerous and prolific home run hitting Mariners club seemed to be a bad matchup for the Tribe’s number three starter, but he came out firing heat while shutting down Seattle over seven fantastic innings of three-hit baseball. Bauers provided all of the scoring that he would need, while Wittgren worked two perfect innings of relief with closer Brad Hand unavailable to lock down Cleveland’s eleventh win of the season.
Carrasco’s gem spoiled the first Major League start of Seattle’s Erik Swanson, who had appeared in two innings of relief a week ago in his big league debut after coming over to the Mariners in the James Paxton trade with the New York Yankees in the offseason. Swanson allowed just one run on two hits with five strikeouts in six quality innings of work, but he came away the unlucky loser as the Mariners could not come through against the tough Tribe pitching selection on the day.
Both teams had just three hits in the ball game. The Mariners’ 20-game homer streak, a Major League record, came to its close as the club dropped to 13-8 on the year with its six straight loss.
After an embarrassing defeat in Kansas City in his last start, one which lasted just two-thirds of an inning and included six runs allowed, Carrasco came out firing bullets early. He struck out the side in order before walking the leadoff man, Edwin Encarnacion, to start the second. Big Daniel Vogelbach grounded into a double play to end any threat, and Tim Beckham followed with a groundout to short.
The Indians were slowed in the early going by Swanson, who struck out Leonys Martin to start the game and added another in the second before a two-out single by Bauers. He was stranded as Greg Allen lined out sharply to short to end the inning.
Both pitchers retired the side in order in the third, with Carrasco striking out the side for the second time on the night. Swanson pitched a perfect fourth, while Carrasco recovered from a leadoff double to left by Mallex Smith by striking out the dangerous Domingo Santana, Jay Bruce, and Encarnacion on swinging third strikes to end the threat.
Bauers delivered with the biggest hit of the game with one down in the top of the fifth. After fouling off several pitches and working the count to full, he caught up with a fastball up in the zone and sent it just to the left of center and over the wall for a solo shot, his second of the season, to give Carrasco and Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
Carrasco walked Vogelbach to start the home half of the fifth, but two flies to Martin in center and a fielder’s choice force at second kept the Tribe lead at one.
Carrasco’s biggest scare came in the sixth, but it could have been much worse. After retiring the first two batters, Santana sent a double to center. Martin made a nice sliding play to prevent the ball from getting past him, where it may have rolled to the wall, which forced the Seattle left fielder to pull up at second with a two-base hit. He advanced to third on a wild pitch by Carrasco, but Bruce struck out swinging for the third straight trip to leave the tying run 90 feet away.
The Indians could not tack on against the Mariners’ bullpen. Carlos Gonzalez singled with one out in the seventh against Zac Rosscup, but he was stranded on strikeouts by pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez and Bauers. Against Brandon Brennan in the eighth, Freeman worked a two-out, five-pitch walk, but Martin flied out to leave him there.
Carrasco worked his way out of the seventh after letting the leadoff man on, preventing the Mariners to find the scoreboard. Encarnacion singled to center off of his former teammate, but a pop out to third by Vogelbach and back-to-back strikeouts of Beckham and Omar Narvaez left the tying run standing far from home.
Wittgren did the heavy lifting from there, taking over in the eighth. He got the first two men to ground out before a strikeout of Smith. He worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save of the season, getting a fly out by Santana, a grounder to a shifted Ramirez from Bruce, and a big swing and a miss from Encarnacion on the second payoff pitch, a high heater, to slam the door on Seattle while busting out the brooms.
The Indians concluded their road trip with a 5-4 record and two series wins, with a sweep by Kansas City the only real blemish of the last week and a half.
Carrasco worked seven scoreless innings in his best start of the season. He was in command all game long and had unhittable stuff at times. He threw 108 pitches, with 72 for strikes.
“I think he was aggressive. There looked like there was conviction behind his pitches,” said manager Terry Francona. “He’s got to trust himself a little bit. His stuff is too good. He battled.”
He worked ahead of 17 of the 25 batters that he faced and got 23 swings and misses on the night. He struck out 12 batters and allowed just five to reach on a single, two doubles, and two walks. He moved to 2-2 on the season and dropped his lofty ERA figure down to 7.41.
Wittgren shouldered the closing role for Hand, who had earned saves in each of the last two games for the Indians. Francona told his All-Star left-hander after Tuesday night’s game that he would not be pitching in the series finale with the M’s.
“Wittgren came in, on a day where our bullpen is a little thin, gave us two gutsy innings,” said Francona. “We get three hits, one run, and on a lot of nights you guys are asking what’s wrong with the offense. We’re walking out of here with a win.
“He can go multiple innings,” Francona continued on Wittgren. “On a normal night, Hand’s in that game. It’s not a normal day. We had two guys up in the ‘pen. Didn’t want [Mitch] Haniger to hit. So unless there was an open base, we just kind of had [Tyler] Olson up in case there was an open base. [Wittgren] looked as strong in the second inning as he looked in the first.”
Carlos Santana was given the day off while dealing with a tight hamstring. It is the first time this season in 18 games that he has been out of the lineup. With the team getting Thursday off after its nine-game road trip, it will give the team’s leading offensive weapon an extra day of rest prior to the club’s five-game homestand against Atlanta and Miami beginning over the weekend.
In other news on the injury front, shortstop Francisco Lindor was hitless in four appearances for Triple-A Columbus in the second game of his rehab assignment earlier in the day. He is expected to be back in the Clippers lineup on Thursday before traveling to Cleveland, where he could be activated from the 10-day injured list, if passing the tests of the training staff.
The Indians will play a pair of interleague series in the next week, hosting the Braves from Friday to Sunday before the Marlins come to town for two on Tuesday and Wednesday. The road ways will resume with a trip to Houston and Miami following the visit from the two National League clubs.
Photo: Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images