A disturbing pattern has presented itself in Carlos Carrasco’s last two starts. To be frank, it is beginning to look like Fausto Carmona has never gone away.
That pattern, of course, is for an implosion whenever an inning starts to get out of hand. It happened today for Carrasco (8-6, 4.28 ERA) for the second straight start, when a two-run homer by Toronto’s Eric Thames in the third inning seemed to rattle Carrasco, who went on to allow three more runs in the frame to put the Tribe in a daunting 5-0 hole, on their way to a lackluster 7-1 loss, the Indians’ third straight.
And it sent Carrasco into an early All-Star break, having given up 11 runs in his last seven innings of work.
Another pattern of the past few days reared its ugly head today: The Indians left 13 men on base.
The inability of the Indians’ offense to come through from the get-go in today’s game might have had something to do with Carrasco’s performance. That of course is just speculation, but as someone who used to play ball, I am here to tell you that seeing your teammates consistently put pressure on you to achieve by failing to achieve themselves can wear on you after a while, although a professional will never say that out loud.
Rather you can see little signs and make such an inference yourself, as we saw Carrasco erupt in temper after an error cost him runs in a game recently, and again today when he threw a fastball to first to retire the side in the third.
Maybe he mistook Carlos Santana for a catcher instead of a first-baseman at the time?
The Indians immediately began putting pressure on Blue Jays’ starter Brett Cecil today. Michael Brantley led off the Tribe first with a walk, and after Orlando Cabrera popped out on a bunt try, Travis Hafner walked and Santana singled to left on a deflection off of the shortstop.
But Grady Sizemore popped out to third with the infield fly rule in effect, leaving the bases loaded opportunity to Austin Kearns.
Kearns grounded out, and whamo, in the very first inning the bugaboo of the Tribe for the past several weeks had reared its head: struggling with men in scoring position.
Was the tone set for the game? The answer to that has to be "no", as the Indians used up all their bullets in the first frame, and soon, the game was out of hand and it really didn’t matter.
In the third, after Thames’ homer, Carrasco allowed a single to Jose Bautista but then got the next two hitters on grounders.
And yes, Bautista advanced to third, but with two outs, and only a 2-0 deficit, minimizing the damage right there would have left this very much a ballgame.
Instead, this was the progression with two outs and a man at third: walk, RBI single, wild pitch, two-run ground rule double.
And a 5-0 Blue Jays lead. Again, an implosion once things got dicey.
Not to belabor the point, but the pitching coach needs to have a little chat with Carrasco (and with Carmona when he comes back) about how to bear down when the going gets tough. Yesterday Josh Tomlin did not have his best stuff, but never gave up more than one run in an inning.
Once the entire staff can pitch like that, we will have true contention to talk about.
Frank Herrmann came on for the Tribe in the fourth and — as he has so often done — shut the door in long relief to at least give the Indians a chance. Herrmann worked two scoreless innings, but the Cleveland offense could not take advantage and chip into the deficit against Cecil.
However, the Tribe teased in the fourth when Lou Marson doubled with one out, and Luis Valbuena singled, putting runners at the corners.
Where, of course, they were stranded when Jack Hannahan struck out and Brantley lined out.
Then in the sixth, the Jays basically put this game to rest when they added two runs off of Rafael Perez.
In the bottom half however, the first two Indians reached on an error and a Kearns single.
You can guess what happened next — Marson popped out and Valbuena flied out.
But finally someone came through with men in scoring position, when Hannahan’s single broke the ice for the Tribe and got Cleveland to "within" six.
But Brantley grounded out, and another promising inning was defused — by a pitcher who pitched within himself when the going got tough, and minimized the damage.
Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Tony Sipp all got in to the game and pitched a scoreless inning. Meanwhile Cecil (2-4, 5.44 ERA) was followed by two relievers who combined for three scoreless frames.
And so we head for a break, and just in time it would seem. You look at this Blue Jays team and you wonder how they can be under .500, until you realize that they play in a division with the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Rays. Yet even so, Toronto took a punch on Thursday when the Indians pulled off their remarkable five-run ninth, and the Blue Jays took the momentum from that win and made it seem like ancient history.
Oh and one more bit of joyous news: The Tigers defeated the Kansas City Royals 2-1, and so the Indians head to the break in second place in the AL Central.