April is a time for top of the rotation pitchers to work out kinks in their mechanics as they ease into the grueling 162-game season.
For Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, a brief adjustment period has rapidly transitioned into a pair of shutouts to start a three-game weekend series with the White Sox.
The Cleveland Indians pitching staff extended their scoreless streak to 23 innings as they defeated Chicago by a score of 7-0 on Saturday evening at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Brantley set the tone for the offense with a pair of two-run blasts in the first and seventh innings.
Carrasco cruises to second victory
Kluber and Carrasco have collectively put the White Sox in a 6-for-53 (.113) skid and did not allow an opposing baserunner to advance past second base.
“We don’t relax from yesterday, from Kluber the way he attacked the hitters,” said Carrasco to reporters. “That’s what I did today. I came here (to the) stadium a little bit early, I just watched the video of how he attacked the hitters.”
For the number two starter in the rotation, a healthy mix of fastballs, sliders, changeups and curveballs produced 17 swinging strikes, 19 called strikes and 18 batted balls in play – 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R/ER, 1 BB, 8 K (106 pitches, 73 strikes, 68.9%, eight groundouts, two flyouts).
“(He) reached back for the first fastball, challenged when he needed to; he did a great job,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s been good since his first start, but now he’s stretched out where the game dictates when he comes out as opposed to maybe a pitch count.
Carrasco never faced adversity as Chicago did not have a runner in scoring position for the entirety of his outing. Although Carrasco finished the Cactus League with concerns over right elbow swelling, his four-seam fastball averaged 93.7-mph while his two-seam heater registered a mark of 92-mph.
“I admit, we had some anxiety just because he didn’t pitch that much,” said Francona. “For him to try to pitch a shutout, he was going to get up over 120 (pitches). We need him for the long haul. My heart was saying yeah, but I just didn’t think it made sense.”
Zach McAllister closed out the contest and struck out two batters in the ninth frame. Tyler Saladino went 2-for-4 as the only starter with a hit against Cleveland.
Encarnacion and Brantley lift bats
Two of the highly anticipated additions to the Tribe lineup made an impact on a night where Mike Pelfrey was starting on short notice due to James Shields’ injury.
Encarnacion jump-started the road nine with a two-run homer on an 0-2 count to dead center field, a 107-mph shot that traveled 437-feet.
“I think that shows what he can do,” Francona said. “He’s starting to get a little more aggressive and he’s getting his legs under him a little bit better. I think that bodes well for us.”
Brantley made his presence known with a two-run homer off Michael Ynoa in the seventh to bring the lead to 6-0.
“It’s not as easy as it looks; he missed so much time,” said Francona. “He’s the same hitter he was before. I just think that’s a testament to not only his talent, but his work ethic.”
Sandwiched between the two round-trippers was Carlos Santana’s RBI single and Francisco Lindor’s sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.
Jose Ramirez rounded out the one-sided affair with his fifth home run of the season.
“I think he’s just a good player,” Francona said. “My goodness, it looks like he continues to get better.”
Central Division update
Miguel Sano and Matthew Boyd were ejected during Saturday’s Tigers (9-8) vs. Twins (8-9) ballgame as benches cleared over an attempted hit by pitch. Despite earning the win, Detroit’s Jacoby Jones left after taking a 90-mph fastball off his head.
Elvis Andrus hit a walk-off single to give the Royals (7-10) their third consecutive defeat.
The Indians will look to cap off their unbeaten road trip on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. ET from Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Ill.
RHP Danny Salazar (1-1, 3.57) is in line to make his fourth start of the campaign after striking out 11 hitters in six innings of two-run ball vs. the White Sox on April 12. The 27-year-old leads the MLB in strikeouts per nine innings with a mark of 13.75 K/9.
LHP Derek Holland (1-2, 2.19) will oppose the Tribe for the second time in 2017 in hopes that he can recover from surrendering seven runs (two earned) on Monday.