Indians stay red hot at home, edge Angels, 4-3
Bauer, Carrasco lead Tribe to their tenth straight win at Progressive Field
CLEVELAND—They say home is where the heart is.
And it’s safe to say, home couldn’t be any sweeter for the Tribe this year.
Returning to Progressive Field for the first time since June 4, the Indians continue to showcase their winning ways at their home ballpark.
Getting swept by the Halos in L.A. at the end of April, the Tribe returned the favor in the series opener at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario Monday night.
After a back-and-forth battle through the first four innings, Indians hitters edged out the Angels, 4-3 to notch their third straight win, and tenth consecutive home victory.
“I love the fact and wish we could play more games at home,” skipper Terry Francona said. “We were on such a long road trip that I really don’t have an explanation for it.”
The win moves Cleveland (36-35) just 2 1/2 games behind the first place Detroit Tigers in the American League Central, boasting the best home record in the A.L. at 22-11.
Tribe bats were at it early, as shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera gave the club the first lead of the ballgame with a two-run homer in the first inning off Angels starter Jered Weaver (7-6, 3.67 ERA). Cabrera has quickly heated up at the plate, hitting .298 with three home runs and 10 RBI over his last 13 games.
Despite a cushion at the outset, Indians starter Trevor Bauer (2-3, 4.20 ERA) gave the lead right back a half inning later. Leadoff singles by Angels infielders David Freese and Howie Kendrick set up for a two-run double by catcher Chris Iannetta, knotting the game at two apiece.
The seesaw battle continued in the third, when Michael Brantley laced an RBI single to right field off Weaver helping the Tribe regain the one-run lead. Third in the American League with a .323 average, Brantley would leave the game in the fourth inning due to precautionary reasons after sustaining a blow to the head sliding into second base in the third.
After L.A. tied the ballgame back up in the fourth on a sacrifice fly, Carlos Santana gave Cleveland the lead they would never surrender in the bottom half of the frame. The switch-hitter launched his ninth homer to the right field seats, sending the Indians to a 4-3 lead.
All Santana has done over the last two weeks is hit, batting .333 (17-for-51) with four homers and 13 RBI over his last 15 games.
Bauer settled in nicely after the Santana blast, recording his fourth quality start of the season. The right-hander went 6 2/3 innings giving up three runs and struck out six.
“I thought he executed a lot of pitches,” Francona said. “I think he got a real good feel for his curveball and enough sliders to keep them off-balanced. He made a few mistakes that they hit, but he held them off the scoreboard and stayed out there long enough.”
Like his team, the 23 year-old has seemed to blossom at home. Winless in five career starts on the road with a 7.89 ERA, Bauer improves to 3-2 in his career at Progressive Field owning a 2.50 ERA in six career starts.
“I thought I located my fastball better as the game went along,” he said. “I had a decent curveball and everything else was pretty consistent. I would’ve liked to last longer and be more efficient.”
Bauer tossed a career-high 119 pitches, where 72 of them went for strikes.
“I pitch every fifth day so I’d rather go out there and be able to do that for the ‘pen and throw a lot of pitches,” he said. “I train to do that, I can go 130, 140, 150, 200 or whatever. It felt good to go out there and kind of prove I can still handle it late in the game.”
Not to be undone, another former Tribe phenom is also beginning to show his true worth coming out of the bullpen. With Cody Allen unavailable to pitch, Carlos Carrasco gave the Indians 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief Monday.
“I’m just trying to help the team,” Carrasco said. “Any position, starting or in the bullpen and right now, in the bullpen I’m getting it done.”
The right-hander also recorded his first career save tossing a scoreless ninth.
"He pitched really, really well,” Francona said. “That’s a huge lift for us, when we can stay away from everybody in the bullpen and win a one run game going through that lineup. The way Carlos was pitching, there was no reason to take him out of the game.”
“He looked comfortable and commanded the ball well,” Bauer said of Carrasco. “He went at guys and attacked them. I think to have that confidence coming into a tight game like that, it was impressive.”
Carrasco has continued to thrive in his role as a reliever not only this season, but since last year.
He owns a 1.73 ERA out of the bullpen over 36 1/3 innings in his career.
“The only thing is that I feel different, that’s it,” Carrasco said. “Coming out of the bullpen instead of starting, my mentality is way different. I feel great getting the opportunity to pitch and get outs.”
Francona also noted postgame that Brantley passed all the initial concussion tests and will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
Up next for Indians: The Tribe looks to make it four straight Tuesday night, as they face the Angels in the second game of the four game series. Josh Tomlin (4-3, 3.33 ERA) will make his eighth start against L.A. right-hander Matt Shoemaker (3-1, 4.19 ERA) at 7:05 p.m.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tribe's bullpen has been pretty good so far this season, but with how many appearances Allen, Shaw and Scrabble are racking up, the Indians desperately need more arms they can trust in the second half. Here's hoping Carrasco, CC Lee, and Crockett can fill that role.
Nasty slider and fastball sitting at 97-98