CLEVELAND — After taking a line drive to the face in the first inning, just the fact that Carlos Carrasco was able to return to return to Progressive Field after getting tests was stunning. For him to escape with only a bruised jaw is a small miracle.
In a homestand where everything that could go wrong has, the Indians will take any positive news they can get.
Eight pitches into Tuesday’s game against the White Sox, Melky Cabrera hit a 1-2 changeup right at Carrasco. The right-hander was able to deflect it with part of his glove and then it hit the right side of his face. Carrasco was down on the ground for five minutes before being helped up by trainers on to a cart. Tests and X-rays at Lutheran Hospital were negative.
Manager Terry Francona said that Carrasco was doing better by the hour and that he even was doing some arm exercises. Carrasco will be further evaluated on Wednesday but his next start on Sunday at Minnesota is in doubt.
"I think in the big picture we dodged a real big bullet," Francona said.
For all the talk about pitchers wearing hats with extra padding, a line drive like that still would not have helped. Credit Carrasco’s reflexes in being able to get his glove up to deflect it for it not being a direct shot to his face.
"It was a very tough moment," Cabrera said via a translator. "It was real scary because it hit his face, but it’s baseball. You can’t control it once you hit the ball. At the first moment I thought the ball hit directly in his face, but then I realized it was on the side."
Zach McAllister, who came in after Carrasco was injured, has not taken a line drive to the face or head, but he did have one go off his elbow during a game at Tampa Bay two years ago which for him was scary enough.
"One hoppers are something else where it comes off the ground but a line drive in that vicinity is scary," he said. "A lot of times it slows down on you and the ball is in slow motion but you can’t make the play or get out of the way quick enough."
FRANCONA ON CARRASCO INJURY
Mike Aviles was the first one to get to Carrasco as he fielded the ball and called time out. Since he couldn’t hear what Carrasco said, Aviles and the Indians’ players that surrounded him. Aviles said he kind of felt helpless until he could see Carrasco being taken to the cart.
"When he got on the cart and was coherent, then you can exhale that my teammate is alright," Aviles said. "No one wants to see it happen let alone to a cool guy and teammate. It makes it frustrating that something like that happens."
Carrasco ended up taking the loss as the White Sox scored twice in the first en route to a 4-1 victory. Chicago left-hander Jose Quintana improved to 4-0 in his career against the Indians. The Tribe fell to 0-4 against lefties this season and struck out 14 times, including the last six outs of the game.
Aviles added: "You think about his health and then after that have to patch together nine innings. We just weren’t able to hit or put anything together against Quintana."
The Indians have lost their first four home games for the first time since 1987. Ironically that was also the last time they were on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Baseball Preview issue.
During this homestand catcher Yan Gomes has been lost 6-8 weeks to a knee injury and Michael Brantley has played in only one game due to recurring back issues. For those who believe in bad things happening in threes, it can’t get much worse than that.
"The sad part is you don’t want to start thinking like that because more things will happen," Aviles said. "You have to look at the positive like things happened early and we’ll get them back. We just have to stay afloat. Those are three main guys but at the same time we have to regroup."
They better regroup quickly since after the Wednesday afternoon game against the White Sox, the Indians go on a nine-game road trip, all against division opponents.