CLEVELAND – A change in velocity has the tendency to keep hitters off-balanced.
For the Indians, the mid-90s fastball and 12-6 curveball of Justin Verlander proved to be drastically different from the upper-80s fastball and knee-buckling changeup of Matt Boyd.
Cleveland fell short in its rubber match with the Detroit Tigers by a score of 4-1 on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. The Tribe finished 2-4 on the homestand, their first losing homestand since going 3-4 from July 4-10 in 2016.
Carlos Carrasco posted his third consecutive quality start of the season but the home nine could not muster enough offense as they batted 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, the third time they were held hitless in run-scoring opportunities at Progressive Field in 2017.
Carrasco works past early trouble
Two-out hitting foiled Carrasco’s attempt at keeping the score deadlocked as he surrendered a single to Tyler Collins and two-run homer to Alex Avila in the second inning.
A mound visit with catcher Yan Gomes and pitching coach Mickey Callaway turned the tables.
“It looked like he was starting to – I don’t want to say get rattled – but you could see him kind of talking to Frankie and Gomer so Mick went out,” said manager Terry Francona. “Other than not locating or throwing a fastball in to Avila, he was really good.”
Aside from the aforementioned pair of base knocks, Carrasco retired 18 of the 25 batters he faced, including five strikeouts. The 30-year-old right-hander did issue a career-high five walks as he falls to 6-7 in his career vs. the Tigers with a 4.77 ERA (83 IP, 44 ER).
“We’re going to have some ups and downs,” Carrasco said. “This is the beginning of the season and then we go on the road and then we go from there.”
Boyd uses double play; Indians use double steal
Despite allowing six hits and a pair of leadoff walks, Boyd effectively mixed speeds in the bottom-third of the strike zone to induce three inning-ending double plays through the first five innings. His changeup was troublesome for the home nine.
“I think it's different styles of pitchers too,” said Francona of transitioning from Verlander to Boyd in less than 24 hours. “The changeup kind of took the sting out of our bats. Sneaky fastball, real good changeup and could throw it any time (and in) any count and it’s a good one.”
The 26-year-old southpaw hit a bump in the sixth.
Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion each singled and successfully pulled off a double steal to put two runners in scoring position with Jose Ramirez at the plate. The hottest hitter in the lineup lined a sacrifice fly to left field to cut the deficit in half before Guyer struck out.
Insurance runs prove costly
After pulling within one run, the Indians elected to use Bryan Shaw for the top five hitters in manager Brad Ausmus’ batting order.
Two singles and one double equated to another two runs.
Miguel Cabrera led the charge with an RBI single before exiting due to lower back tightness.
Wilson and Wilson keep Cleveland offense in check
Not known for having an effective bullpen unit, the Tigers employed Alex Wilson and Justin Wilson in the seventh and eighth frames respectively. The Tribe batted 0-for-6 vs. the duo with four strikeouts to set the stage for Francisco Rodriguez’s save conversion in the ninth.
“I don’t think we ever like to lose regardless of what time of the year it is,” said Francona. “You feel like if you get some baserunners, you got a chance to win that game.”
Central Division update
Ian Kennedy fired eight shutout innings to spearhead the Royals (6-6) over the Angels.
The Indians open a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Monday at 8:10 p.m. ET from Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn.
RHP Danny Salazar (0-1, 4.63) will toe the rubber for the 88th time in his major league tenure after striking out a career-high 11 hitters on Wednesday.
RHP Kyle Gibson (0-1, 8.00) opposes the Tribe in hopes that he can bounce back from allowing a decisive grand slam to Andrew Romine last Wednesday.