Well that was painful.
It unraveled quickly for Carlos Carrasco on Saturday night in Texas, with a couple of bloop hits, two poor fielding plays by Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana, and then a grand slam by Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland.
Carrasco ended up surrendering seven runs in four innings, but just three were earned, thanks to the first-inning defense.
On the bright side, the bullpen (including Chris Gimenez) combined for four scoreless innings of relief, but the Indians still fell 7-0.
Since there isn’t much more to say about a game which was essentially over in the first inning, I’m going to stray from my usual recap template and use this opportunity to hold my own Q&A session as sort of a “state of the Tribe” address:
Does this mean we can’t beat Texas in October?
No. While the Indians and Rangers might meet in October, it will looking nothing like this series. The first two games featured the aces matched up against the other team’s worst starter. Predictably, the team with the ace on the hill won both games. That’s not representative of October baseball.
Maybe there’s a little concern over their performance against Saturday’s starter A.J. Griffin, but he isn’t even guaranteed a spot in the Rangers postseason rotation, so I wouldn’t worry much too about that.
Is it time to worry about Carrasco?
That depends on what you thought Carrasco was before his roller coaster second half. Did you buy into his hot stretch early in the season? Or did you view it as just another hot stretch—of which he’s had many throughout his career?
I was critical of Carrasco early in his career, but I’ve grown to like him as he’s cut down on his walk rate. He’s a solid No. 2—but he isn’t an ace. Sure, he looks like one every so often, but that’s exactly what makes him a No. 2. He’s a guy who can give you an ace-like performance, but he’ll mix in some cold stretches.
On top of that, he actually didn’t pitch poorly in this game. If Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana do their jobs in the field, Carrasco gets out of the first inning unscathed and likely pitches substantially deeper into the game. He finished with eight strikeouts and just one walk in four innings, so his stuff was relatively strong.
What about the pitching staff as a whole?
I’m mildly concerned about Tomlin, but as I recently wrote, every AL team has a terrible fifth starter this season. So even if he doesn’t rebound, at worst, we’re on par with the rest of the league.
I also addressed the concerns over Danny Salazar in a recent article, and came to the conclusion that there’s nothing to worry about yet. The coaching staff probably screwed up by not sending him on a rehab assignment, and so we’re seeing him shake off the rust at the major league level. If he’s solid in his start on Sunday, I think we can put that storyline to bed.
Overall, I think the concerns about the pitching staff are mostly stemming from the fact that the Indians somehow got five guys to pitch like aces and No. 2s through the first half of the season, which raised expectations to unreasonable levels.
Realistically, the Indians have an ace (Kluber), two solid No. 2s (Carrasco, Salazar), a good but streaky No. 3 (Bauer) and a No. 5 (Tomlin). And in the second half of the season, they’ve pitched to their appropriate level of expectations, rather than the insane performance from early in the season.
Overall, I’m still extremely optimistic about the Indians as contenders. Our pitching staff might not be the 1990s Atlanta Braves, but it is the best in the American League, and that’s often all it takes to advance deep into October.