After Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber was the undeniable staff ace for the Cleveland Indians last season, Carlos Carrasco is providing some competition for that distinction in 2015.
Carrasco, who has posted a winning record only once since making his major league debut in 2009, will try to match a career best for victories and win his fourth straight start in Sunday's finale of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.
The potential has always been there with Carrasco (7-4, 3.92 ERA) since the Indians (27-28) acquired him along with three others in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Philadelphia in July 2009. The powerful right-hander spent the next few years shifting back and forth from the minors before losing all of 2012 to reconstructive elbow surgery.
During the previous two seasons since returning, Carrasco shifted back and forth from the bullpen, making 21 starts over 55 appearances. His record last year (8-7) was his first above .500, though he was 5-6 in his 14 starts despite a solid 2.67 ERA.
Carrasco was one of the Phillies' top prospects and that hope seems to have been realized six years later. He's among the AL wins leaders and has been electrifying in his last three outings with a 1.71 ERA in 21 innings with 23 strikeouts against five walks.
Following an impressive start against Kansas City on Tuesday, the 28-year-old is on a seven-game streak of six or more innings pitched with six or more strikeouts and three or fewer walks - which trails only Kluber (9) and CC Sabathia (8) in franchise history.
"I used more changeups today, a couple of strikeouts with my slider," Carrasco, who struck out eight and allowed five hits in the 2-1 win, told MLB's official website.
"But more importantly, I worked on using my fastball first, and they were swinging a lot, too, so you just kind of go from there."
Carrasco has made two starts against the Orioles (25-30) in his career, going 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 11 combined strikeouts. He tossed seven innings of three-hit ball in a 6-0 victory in his most recent start against them Aug. 16.
With Carrasco on the upswing and forming a formidable front three in the rotation with Kluber and Trevor Bauer, the Indians have begun to turn around a 12-21 start with 15 wins in their last 22 games. They haven't been .500 since they were 2-2 on April 10.
Also in that solid staff mix is Danny Salazar, who struck out 10 and allowed six hits and a run in seven-plus innings of Saturday's 2-1 victory. Carlos Santana had a tiebreaking double in the sixth after Nick Swisher hit an RBI single in the third.
Opposing Carrasco will be Bud Norris (1-4, 9.88 ERA), who will make his first start since May 10 after going on the disabled list to deal with a bout of bronchitis.
The right-hander allowed 20 earned runs in his first three starts and lasted only 3 1-3 innings against the New York Yankees in his most recent - though his illness was a big factor. Manager Buck Showalter admitted that Norris lost 10 pounds fighting the ailment.
"I had a lot of stomach stuff and some things, so I'm going to try to get home, get some rest, put some fluids in me," Norris said at the time. "I've been battling the stomach thing. I really wanted to go out there and give everything I had."
Norris is 2-0 with a .213 opponent batting average in his two career starts against Cleveland. He tossed four hitless innings in his final tuneup with Triple-A Norfolk.