Carlos Carrasco carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning tonight before giving up a lead-off infield single to Michael McKenry, and took a shutout into the seventh before finally giving up his first run in three starts, but improved to 7-3 on the season and won his third straight start, as the Indians, for the second night in a row, defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1.
With the win, Cleveland was assured of staying in first place, and that lead could extend to a full game, as the Colorado Rockies were ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning at the time of writing.
The Indians wasted little time jumping ahead of Pirates’ starter Paul Maholm in this one. In the Tribe first, Grady Sizemore was hit by a pitch leading off, moved to second when Michael Brantley was retired on a tapper back to the mound, moved to third on a single to right from Asdrubal Cabrera, and scored on a sacrifice fly to left from Carlos Santana. making it 1-0 Cleveland. Shin-Soo Choo walked, moving Cabrera to second, but Orlando Cabrera lined out to end the inning.
In the second the Tribe doubled their lead. Austin Kearns singled leading off, and moved to second on a ground out. Another ground out moved Kearns to third, and Sizemore delivered in the clutch with a double to shallow right field.
Orlando Cabrera gave Cleveland a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth after Carrasco worked out of his first trouble in the top half, when Cabrera hit his third homer of the season, on a drive to left field.
Pittsburgh finally got on the board in the seventh. Garrett Jones led off with a double and moved to third on a ground out, before Lyle Overbay singled, driving in Jones and cutting the lead to 3-1.
That was all for Carrasco, who gave way to Joe Smith with a man on and one out. Smith did a great job, getting out of the inning on a pair of grounders and closing the book on Carrasco, who went 6.1 innings, allowing the one run on four hits, and dropping his ERA to 3.87. Carrasco walked one and fanned four on 102 pitches.
Sizemore tripled leading off the bottom of the seventh for the Indians, and Brantley came through with a sac fly to restore the Tribe’s three-run lead at 4-1.
That was all for Maholm, who was relieved by Tony Watson. Watson gave up a single to Asdrubal Cabrera, who scored second. Santana struck out but Cabrera stole second and scored on a single by Choo, making it 5-1 Cleveland. Choo took second on the throw to the plate but was stranded there when Orlando Cabrera was retired for the third out.
Maholm (3-8, 3.29 ERA) gave up seven hits and four runs, walking two and striking out three.
Smith stayed on for the eighth and struck out two while retiring the side in order, as this game more and more resembled Friday’s game, when Vinnie Pestano emulated Smith’s 1.2 perfect frames tonight with 1.1 perfect innings.
Jose Veras came on for Pittsburgh in the Tribe eighth and retired the side in order.
For the second night in a row, Tony Sipp came on to finish things up. Sipp battled for two K’s and retired the side in order, and the Indians had improved to 38-31.
The Indians managed nine hits tonight, including two each from Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera and Kearns. It was encouraging that the Tribe managed to equal last night’s offensive output without the benefit of having Travis Hafner in the lineup.
This series will wrap up on Sunday when Justin Masterson opposes Pittsburgh’s Jeff Karstens.