Carlos Carrasco got the Cleveland Indians back on track exactly the way they took command in the AL Central: with strong pitching.
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Carrasco (5-3) took a shutout into the ninth inning and the Indians pushed across an unearned run to defeat the Minnesota Twins 1-0 Tuesday night, ending a season-high five-game losing streak.
”Over the years, I have discovered a shutout is the best way to stop a losing streak,” Manager Manny Acta said with a sly smile.
Carrasco gave up three hits, struck out six and walked one over 8-1/3 innings as Cleveland avoided its first eight-game losing streak ever at Progressive Field. The Indians opened the year 14-2 at home. They have not lost eight in a row at home since June 8-21, 1975, at old Cleveland Stadium.
”Awesome, man,” second baseman Orlando Cabrera said. ”Carlos was really good, so was the defense and we got a win.”
Chris Perez replaced Carrasco after Ben Revere slapped a one-out single through the hole at shortstop in the ninth. Revere took second on a weak groundout by Alexi Casilla before Perez got Michael Cuddyer on a called third strike for his 15th save in 16 chances.
”Shame on me if I let the kid lose the ballgame after the way he pitched,” Acta said about replacing Carrasco. ”I wanted to give him a chance for the complete game, but he had to go 1-2-3 (in the ninth). You have a closer for a reason.”
Cuddyer strongly disagreed with the final call.
”I didn’t think that pitch was a strike at all,” said Cuddyer, who whirled around and got into the face of plate umpire Adrian Johnson. ”I thought it was off the plate.”
Minnesota had a five-game winning streak snapped despite Francisco Liriano (3-6) coming off the disabled list and matching Carrasco for five innings. The left-hander showed no effects of an inflamed throwing shoulder that had sidelined him since May 22. He gave up three hits and three walks, striking out seven.
Carlos Santana doubled to open the Indians’ fourth, reaching third when the ball got past left fielder Delmon Young for an error. Santana scored on a groundout to short by Shelley Duncan.
Carrasco used a lively fastball and sharp breaking ball to get 14 outs on grounders.
”That’s as good as I’ve seen him at the big-league level,” said Lou Marson, who has caught the right-hander since both were 17-year-olds in the Philadelphia farm system in 2004. They came to Cleveland as part of the Phillies’ trade for Cy Young winner Cliff Lee in July 2009.
”It was a great performance by Carlos,” Marson said. ”He’s going to be really, really good one day.”
He wasn’t all that bad Tuesday. Carrasco retired 13 in a row until Young doubled over the head of center fielder Grady Sizemore with one out in the fifth. Young took third when Luke Hughes followed with an infield hit up the middle. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera snagged it with a dive, but Hughes beat the throw to first.
Carrasco then got Brian Dinkelman to foul out and fanned Rene Rivera – who lost control of the bat waving at strike three. The bat went sailing about 110 feet and landed past third base.
”That was big,” Carrasco said of getting out of his only jam. ”Sometimes I try to be too perfect. Tonight, I felt good, had all my pitches in control and the defense was great.”
In the seventh, Justin Morneau drew a one-out walk. Young followed with a bouncing ball up the middle that shortstop Cabrera got to and shoveled to second baseman Orlando Cabrera with his glove to start a rally-killing double play.
”That nifty double play saved Carlos,” Acta said. ”Carlos has impressive stuff, he just needs to trust it.”
Twins lefties went just 1 for 15 against Carrasco, who had been belted around for a .368 average by left-handers entering the game.
”I used a two-seam fastball against them,” he said. ”It had a lot of sink.”
Carrasco has won four of five starts since May 17. He went on the DL with an inflamed right shoulder on April 28, four days after lasting only three innings in a start in Minnesota.
Notes: Cleveland’s 20-11 home record is best in the AL. … The last time Cleveland won 1-0 with an unearned run was April 19, 1990, against the Yankees. … Cleveland broke an eight-game losing streak to the Twins. Indians DH Travis Hafner, out since May 20 with a strained right oblique, should start taking batting practice in ”three or four days,” according to manager Manny Acta. … Morneau played first base after being the DH Monday. He didn’t play Saturday and Sunday because of a sore left wrist. … Twins OF Denard Span returned to Minnesota to have his sore neck examined by team doctors. He was hurt sliding into home plate Friday against Kansas City and didn’t play Saturday and Sunday. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Span is experiencing the same lightheaded symptoms he had from an inner ear infection in 2009.