I’m not exactly sure why Major League Baseball lets them get away with it, but the Cleveland Indians have on their roster two men who wear the same uniform number and who have the same name.
The first man, whose name is Fausto Carmona, wears the number 55 on his jersey. This man, whom we’ll call Good Fausto, is a decent major league pitcher, one with command of his pitches, especially his sinker, and with command of his emotions while on the mound. In 2007, Good Fausto won 19 games for the Indians while posting an ERA of 3.06, second-best in the American League, and finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting. Were this man not a teammate of his that season, he might well have finished first. Good Fausto would make the starting rotation of every team in the major leagues, and would be the ace of the staff on quite a few clubs.
The second man, who wears number 55 on his jersey, is named Fausto Carmona. This man, Bad Fausto, once had a brief, disastrous tryout as a closer, whereupon he blew three saves in one week. A few years later, he started 12 games for the Indians, going 2-6 with a 7.42 ERA, earning him a stint with the Arizona Rookie League in order to work on his mechanics. Bad Fausto was the starting pitcher for the Tribe on Opening Day this year, and he left the game after three innings, having given up ten earned runs. Bad Fausto is a very bad pitcher, one who is lucky to have a job on a major league roster.
Before Thursday’s game against the Detroit Tigers, I wondered which Fausto Carmona would take the mound. It turns out both of them did.
Bad Fausto started the game. He gave up an unearned run in the first inning, and three earned runs in the second inning. Bad Fausto also had a rocky third inning, giving up a double, a walk, and a single, somehow without allowing a run. He got out of the inning on a well-turned line-drive double play.
In the top of the fourth inning, Good Fausto came out to pitch. He was very good indeed, allowing two hits and no runs over four innings. Good Fausto kept the Indians in the game and gave them a chance to win.
Unfortunately for the Indians, the Tigers started Justin Verlander. There’s only one Justin Verlander, and he’s very good. Thursday’s game was no exception, as he gave up only three hits and three earned runs over seven innings, while striking out ten. Any hope the Indians had of winning came in the eighth and ninth innings, when the Tigers’ bullpen took over, but they too were strong. Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde each pitched hitless, scoreless innings, and the Tribe fell short, losing the game 4-3.
An Indians victory would have meant a three-game sweep of the Tigers, and would have brought them within one game of the division lead. Instead, they won two out of three, and are now three games back. While not getting the sweep was disappointing, especially after winning the first two games, the Tribe did gain a game over their division rivals. And as Marvin Lee Aday taught us long ago, that ain’t bad.
On a personal note, my pain upon watching the Indians lose was more than offset by the pleasant company of Stephanie Liscio, who surprised me earlier in the day by offering me the opportunity to watch the game with her at Progressive Field, thanks to some ticket-swapping transaction the details of which I probably never will understand. I also got to meet her Rally Cows, who sadly must have left their good mojo back at the barn. Thank you, Stephanie, for your thoughtfulness and for the chance to enjoy a good evening of baseball, one marred only by the final score.