Second Thoughts Game #141: White Sox 0, Indians 2
Carrasco falls just shy of complete game as Tribe sweeps Sox
They may not fill out a marquee the same way that Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz did (yet), but the Indians' current starting rotation has become must-see baseball in Cleveland as they continue to dominate since the All-Star break.
Carlos Carrasco followed up Corey Kluber's complete game victory on Saturday with nearly one of his own as he came one out shy of a shutout on Sunday while allowing only four hits and striking out eight. It would've been the first time Indians pitchers tossed back-to-back complete games since David Huff and Mitch Talbot accomplished the feat back in 2010.
Unfortunately, the Tribe offense remained unable to string together hits and runs as they only managed to outscore Chicago by four runs in the series despite their dominant pitching. Scott Carroll, once again, handcuffed Cleveland's bats as only Michael Brantley and Roberto Perez recorded multiple hits off the right-hander. However, the two runs they did manage to push across were enough for Carrasco and Cody Allen to finish off their South Side foes.
Carrasco On A Roll
I'm still somewhat in disbelief over what Carlos Carrasco has been able to do since returning to the rotation, but it's getting to the point where it's becoming safe to assume that this is now the rule rather than the exception. The right-hander has now allowed just three runs in his last six starts and has an ERA of 0.70 since returning to the rotation.
On Sunday, Carrasco was just one out away from the Indians' third complete game victory by one of their starters in the last week, but a two-out single by Jose Abreu was nough for manager Terry Francona to pull the plug as Connor Gillespie stepped up to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Cody Allen then came in and finished the job to give the 27-year-old his fourth win since his return to the rotation and seventh win overall this season.
Since resurrecting his former role as a starter, Carrasco has made six starts, pitched 38.2 combined innings and allowed only the three runs on 25 hits while issuing just four free passes against 42 punchouts. He is now averaging over six innings per start with nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
How long will this continue? Who knows. He's bound to give up some runs in a start at some point and it would be good to see how he responds afterward, but with his improved mechanics, plan of attack and frame of mind on the mound, I can honestly say I have more confidence in him than I ever remember having in the past.
The Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia trades may still raise some eyebrows in Cleveland, but the emergence of Brantley and Carrasco should finally help even the score a bit on both deals.
A Salute To Mickey Callaway
If Mickey Callaway were to pursue a managerial position in baseball, he wouldn't even need a full resume. He could just put down Ubaldo Jimenez and Carlos Carrasco's second-half stats from last year and this season, respectively.
Each pitcher on the Indians' staff individually deserves a ton of credit for their recent surge on the mound, but we should all take a moment to acknowledge a terrific display of leadership from the Indians pitching coach for a second straight season.
Just think about the state of this starting rotation at the trade deadline. Corey Kluber was basically a one-man show wiith some precious help from Trevor Bauer while the other youngsters Danny Salazar, Zach McAllister and T.J. House battled inconsistency and bounced back and forth between Cleveland and AAA Columbus. On top of that, the team's former ace and sole veteran leader, Justin Masterson was shipped off to St. Louis. Yes, he wasn't having great year, but he was a key leader for the staff off the field.
Well, despite a youthful staff in flux, the current starting five has still managed to post an ERA of 2.53 since the All-Star Break and an even more impressive 1.96 mark in the last month.
Again, the pitchers deserve major props for stepping up the way they have, but the way Mickey Callaway has taken these young hurlers, all of which have not yet pitched a full season in the majors due to injury, inconsistency, etc. and helped guide them to becoming dominant big league starters and brightening the future of this staff immensely.
Santana's Secretly Spectacular Season
Carlos Santana's .228 batting average is a glaring mark to many fans, but just about every other major statistic indicates that the Indians' first baseman has actually had a fine offensive season. Of course the 25 home runs and 73 RBI are sexy numbers, but he has also put up impressive marks in several other categories.
On Sunday, Santana went 0-for-3, but drove in his 73rd run on the campaign. He also added to his league-leading walk total with his 100th free pass of the season. It marked the first time in his career that the switch-hitter has drawn 100 walks in a single season. Santana now joins the ranks of the most patient hitters in franchise history with triple-digit walks, a list which includes another prominent Tribe first baseman in Jim Thome, who occupies six of the top 10 spots on the list for most walks in a season.
Santana has also put up a respectable on-base percentage of .365, which is down from his .377 mark a year ago, but still impressive nonetheless, especially with his batting average being as low as it is.
In seven games in September so far, Santana has accounted for a sizeable chunk of the Indians' overall offense driving in exactly one third of their runs scored during this span. That may speak more volumes about the team's lack of offense lately, but it also shows how valuable he has been in the lineup as he, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes have been indispensable at the plate all season.
Up Next: Angels (87-75) vs. Indians (74-67) @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 1:05 pm ET.
The last time the Angels saw the Indians, Nick Swisher was rounding the bases after crushing a walk-off grand slam off Ernesto Frieri to send the Tribe to victory in the unofficial series finale. How things have changed since then. Now Swisher is out for the season, Frieri is in Pittsburgh and several Indians and Angels players have swapped uniforms, including J.B. Shuck and Vinnie Pestano.
The now first-place Angels return to town for a game that was originally postponed due to inclement weather as the Indians continue their month-long grind. Danny Salazar takes the mound following his complete-game effort against the Tigers in their only win of that series. Jered Weaver will toe the rubber against Salazar and the Indians as his solid season continues. Despite taking the loss in his last start, he only allowed two runs in six innings of work.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.