Carlos Carrasco's story with the Cleveland Indians is a classic tale. Over the past couple of years, the pitcher has overcome heart scares, line drives to the face, shoulder soreness, and now was coming off the the DL from a strained hamstring. He was an uber-prospect humbled by a rough beginning that saw him moved to the bullpen before he re-emerged as the best starter on a team full of quality arms. And, on Thursday, Carrasco demonstrated his hamstrings were well again with a decent performance that kept the team close before Francisco Lindor would win it late as the Indians defeated the Kansas City Royals, 5-4.
So, upon that backdrop, Carrasco is the hero. And, heroes show up when they are needed. Well, the Indians needed a hero after back-to-back tough series against the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers with the defending champions in town. And, Carrasco delivered, more or less.
It was not a vintage Cookie performance that will be talked about throughout the season, but the righty kept the Indians in the game allowing for some late-frame heroics. Heck, it was not even a "pretend statistic" Quality Start as the three runs he gave up were in only five innings.
But given that Carrasco had only 80 pitches with which to work (as he's eased back to health), five innings was what the team needed. And given that he didn't have his normal stuff as he only had three strikeouts, three runs felt as though he limited the Royals well to keep the Indians in the game.
Yordano Ventura wears the black hat well. The Royals' flame-throwing starter was the at the center of several bench clearing brawls in 2015 against the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, and Chicago White Sox. He comes off as a bully and surly. He is the perfect heel.
On Thursday, the players remained in the dugouts, however, as Ventura simply pitched. And, he pitched well enough though the Indians were able to scratch out two runs while driving his pitch count high and pushing him out of the game after only six innings.
Frankie can't relax
Carlos Santana stole the game. Sure, the Indians did not need to let it get there as they had opportunities throughout to score more runs, but kept coming up empty. But, they didn't. Instead, Carlos Santana roped a single to the outfield to lead off the ninth inning. Except, he didn't stop with a single. He made a hard turn at first and it took one slight bobble for him to determine he was getting to second base, which he did.
After Jason Kipnis nearly bunted for a base hit moving Santana over, it was Francisco Lindor time. Frankie said to not relax as something special was about to happen. He sliced a ball into the gap in right-center field. And, once the ball bounded away from the normally amazing Royals' outfielders, Lindor was on his way for a game-tying triple.
Still, even as Mike Napoli fell quickly into an 0-2 hole, it just felt as if Lindor's excellence would be rewarded. And, rewarded it was as Napoli was able to get just enough on a high fly ball for Lindor to tag up and score the game-winning run.
The Royals found contact against everything but were killing his four-seam fastball for hits and weren't being fooled into swinging at his two-seam sinker. Carrasco's main issue was he could not maintain his velocity on that fastball as the game progressed. After starting out at 97 miles per hour, he quickly lost a tick on it before seeing it settle under 94 miles per hour the last two innings he pitched. When the opposition is geared up for the faster speed, those three miles per hour can be devastating.
But being it was his first game back from the DL and his longest start during his rehabilitation process, Carrasco should continue to build up his endurance and be back to the dominating Cookie we all know and love soon.