During the new wave music craze of the 1980s (younger readers are advised to ask their parents to explain), there was a singer/guitarist who called himself Joe “King” Carrasco. He had a small degree of fame, appearing on Saturday Night Live in 1981 and placing a song on the soundtrack of the 1983 Richard Gere film “Breathless.” I don’t think about Joe much these days, although he still plays live dates in the Southwest.
But I’ve said his name from time to time in the past few years, when I’ve snidely referred to Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco as “Joking Carrasco,” as in “Come on, Tito. You’re putting Carrasco in to pitch? You must be joking.” I had a low opinion of the Indians’ Carrasco in recent years, because he seemed to be bad at baseball, especially when used as a starter. Those who care to are invited to check out the game logs for his appearances in 2011 and 2013 (he didn’t pitch at all in 2012, as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery that year). I’d cringe when I learned he was scheduled to start.
But last August the Indians removed Carrasco from the rotation entirely and began using him as a reliever, and he did a good job in that role, allowing only two earned runs in 13 innings of work. This earned Carrasco the role of fifth starter in 2014, and once again he lived up (lived down?) to my snide “Joking Carrasco” remark. In late April, Carrasco moved to the bullpen. After a couple of shaky outings, he peformed admirably in that role, giving up only three earned runs in 24 innings of work in June and July.
Which brings us, finally, to the game of Sunday, August 10, 2014. In dire need of someone to start the game, Indians manager Tito Francona handed the ball to Carrasco. And this time the joke was on his detractors, because Carrasco had a fine, if short, outing, allowing only two hits and no walks over five innings. He left the game with the Indians up 3-0 over the Yankees, and the bullpen was able to protect that lead and give Carrasco his first victory as a starting pitcher since June 18, 2011. Over his previous 17 starts, Carrasco had gone 0-12.
The Indians didn’t have much offensive power in the game, but then they didn’t need a lot. They put up single tallies in the first, third, fifth, and seventh innings. Michael Brantley drove in the first two runs for the Tribe, and Yan Gomes got the last two RBI, even if he got one of them by keeping his bat on his shoulder and earning a bases-loaded walk. A solo homer by Jacoby Ellsbury with two out in the ninth cost the Indians the shutout, and the Indians won by a score of 4-1.
The victory gave the Indians a 2-1 series win, and gave the Tribe a 4-3 record against the Yankees for 2014. At 59-59, the Tribe is once again at .500. As the Tigers fell to the Blue Jays, the Indians are now 5.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. The Indians are idle tomorrow, and begin a two-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in Cleveland on Tuesday. Another day off on Thursday means that the Indians might not need a fifth starter for a while yet, but based on his work in Sunday’s game, Carrasco just might get the nod when they do.