After coming within one out of getting a complete game on Sept. 7, Carlos Carrasco turned in the most dominating performance of his Major League career as he struck out a career-high 12 and allowed only two hits in the Indians 2-0 win over the Astros on Wednesday.
With Corey Kluber’s 14 strikeouts on Tuesday it marks the first time since 1966 that Indians’ starters have struck out 12 or more in two straight games. On Sept. 18, 1966, Sam McDowell struck out 14 Tigers and on Sept. 12 Luis Tiant struck out 12 against the Twins.
"It just becomes pretty comfortable," catcher Yan Gomes told reporters of the past two nights. "I just sit there and they hit the target. It is good to see them get in a rhythm."
Carrasco’s previous career high in strikeouts was 10 on Sept. 2 against Detroit. It is the third complete game of his career but the first that is a shutout. Carrasco’s last complete game was on June 24, 2011, against the Giants.
Of the 29 batters Carrasco faced, he threw first pitch strikes to 21 and there were 21 at-bats of three pitches or fewer
"I just feel great," Carrasco told reporters after the game. "I think my changeup was good. I just throw for strikes. I think every time was great command."
Added manager Terry Francona: "Man, he was so good. He pounded the strike zone, pitched with so much confidence and kept being aggressive. This was not a game where we couldn’t spread it out, but when we don’t go to the bullpen, that’s very impressive and shows you how well he is pitching. They get the tying run on and there was no reason to get him."
Since returning to the rotation, the right-hander has made eight starts and is 5-1 with a 1.17 ERA. In 54 innings pitched he has allowed 34 hits and seven runs with 59 strikeouts against seven walks. Opposing teams are batting only .174 against him.
To say that Carrasco’s resurgence is a surprise would be an understatement. He began the year in the rotation but went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in four April starts before being moved to the bullpen. In 26 relief appearances he started to get back on track by going 3-1 with a save and a 2.30 ERA. The biggest jolts of confidence came on June 4 against the Red Sox, when he got his first win in nearly three years and then a save on June 16 against the Angels.
With the Tribe rotation in flux in early August, Carrasco went to pitching coach Mickey Callaway and bullpen coach Kevin Cash about wanting back in the rotation. Francona decided to give Carrasco a spot start on Aug. 10 at New York, where he threw five scoreless innings and hasn’t left the rotation since.
"The entire year has been a big learning curve for Carlos," Francona told reporters after Wednesday’s game "When he went to the bullpen I think he finally realized he didn’t need gimmicks, he just needed to do what he does and now his confidence should be high which it should be.
"It doesn’t always work out that way but we can’t be the organization that can give up on guys and let them go to another team and figure it out. We’re getting paid back not only for the patience but their strong opinion that he can do it."
Carrasco (8-5, 2.65 ERA) should be in line to make two more starts this season — on Monday against Kansas City and Sept. 27 or 28 against Tampa Bay.