CLEVELAND — For the two guys with the most to prove on the Indians’ pitching staff, it wasn’t one of their best afternoons.
Carlos Carrasco was battling uphill one batter in and Vinnie Pestano had another rough outing out of the bullpen as the Twins beat the Indians 7-3 at Progressive Field on Saturday.
Carrasco, who narrowly won the final spot in the rotation during spring training, allowed three runs in the first inning, including a leadoff homer to Brian Dozer. The right-hander would go 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs (four earned0 on seven hits with a pair of walks and seven strikeouts.
Many of the inconsistencies that Carrasco has shown throughout his career were apparent again against the Twins. He had trouble commanding his fastball and ended up getting away from it early.
On the leadoff homer by Brian Dozier, Carrasco was supposed to throw his fastball down and away. Instead, it ended up going inside and Dozier hit it off the railing of the Home Run Porch in left. Later in the inning, he gave up two-out RBI singles to Jason Kubel and Josmil Pinto.
Carrasco would allow two more runs in the third, but he finished strong. Of the final 10 batters he faced, he retired five via strikeout.
Even though Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway would like Carrasco to have more faith in his fastball, Carrasco settled down by throwing more offspeed pitches and mixing them in.
"When I gave up the home run everything changed. I felt myself getting ahead of myself," he said.
Francona was impressed with how Carrasco did in he final three innings, but by then the damage had already been done. There are no doubts about what type of stuff Carrasco has, but getting it out of him has been a challenge, from raising his arm to create some deception with his pitches to being more consistent in his delivery.
"Those are things we’re trying to break through with him because it’s there and we know it’s there. There’s a lot to like but we have to get him out," Francona said. "I would say his tempo in his delivery got better later. He must feel more confident because he’s pitching it and working it quick unlike where every pitch is an event and talk yourself through it. When he’s working quick he feels confident and you can see it in his body language."
Granted, the Indians have had only one turn thru their starting rotation but the early results have not been encouraging.
Justin Masterson pitched seven innings of three-hit ball in last Monday’s opener at Oakland, but the rest of the rotation has struggled. The quartet of Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar and Carrasco has allowed eight first-inning runs and has an ERA of 6.75 with 12 walks and 16 strikeouts. Masterson takes the hill today for the final game of the series.
Said Francona: "I wish everyone that started one game had worked ahead in every count and didn’t give up any runs. There’s travel, weather, human element and now they’ll get their second time through. They’ll get better as they go."
Early in spring training, Pestano looked like he had regained the form he displayed from 2010-12, when he was one of the top set-up guys in baseball. The last three weeks though he has looked more like the guy who struggled last year and ended up being sent down to Columbus for a stint and not making the postseason roster.
Pestano’s struggles continued during the ninth inning when the Twins added two more runs The Tribe’s bullpen has allowed three runs in the first five games with all of them being by Pestano.
Pestano said this was the most comfortable he has felt going into a game, but the results didn’t show it. He said he got a little gun shy after a single by Chris Collabello and started to revert back to what he has been trying to correct.
In his first six appearances during spring training, Pestano allowed only one earned run in six innings. In his last five appearances (three spring and two regular season), he has allowed 10 earned runs in four innings. In the two regular-season games, his biggest problem has been left-handers, who are batting .800 against him (4 for 5) while right-handers are 1 for 6.
"I’ve just got to keep going out there and throwing. It is one of those things where you have to stick with it," he said. "The opportunities now are more pressure on me than getting a hold in the eighth or seventh because I am pitching for my livelihood right now. We have a lot of guys in the pen."