The members of Cleveland’s starting rotation are engaged in one of the most impressive rounds of one-upmanship we’ve seen in a long time. After Wednesday, Carlos Carrasco is the leader in the clubhouse.
Carrasco was perfect through 6 1/3 innings against the Rays, allowing his first base runner on a walk by Joey Butler. He quickly erased that, however, inducing a double play off the bat of Evan Longoria. Carrasco faced the minimum through eight innings, and still had a no-hitter after walking Asdrubal Cabrera and hitting Brandon Guyer to start the ninth. With two outs and an 0–2 count on Butler, however, the outfielder laced a single just over a leaping Jason Kipnis to break up the no-no. Terry Francona lifted Carrasco from the game after he allowed one run on one hit and two walks, striking out 13. The Indians would go on to win 8–1.
Carrasco became the fourth pitcher since 2011 to lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth, joining Shelby Miller (2015), Michael Wacha (2013), Yusmeiro Petit (2013) and Yu Darvish (2013). He was also the third straight Indians starter to take a perfect game into at least the sixth inning, all coming in the first three games of the team’s four-game set with the Rays.
In the first game of the series, Cody Anderson was perfect through six before allowing a Grady Sizemore home run. Danny Salazar lost his perfect-game bid on a Cabrera walk in the sixth on Tuesday, then lost his no-hitter when Curt Casali doubled later in the inning. All told, Indians starters have thrown 24 1/3 innings against the Rays in the series, allowing a total of three earned runs on five hits with 17 strikeouts.
The Indians entered this season as a chic pick to win the World Series, but they’ve fallen well short of expectations through the first three months of the year. If they’re going to turn it in the second half, it will have to be the rotation doing the heavy lifting. No one is confusing the Rays’ offense with the Blue Jays or Orioles, but Cleveland’s rotation has shown why it can spur the team back into the AL Central mix.
Of course, there’s one more game remaining in the series. After getting shut down by Anderson, Salazar and Carrasco, the Rays now have the pleasure of dealing with Corey Kluber. Their chances for getting a runner on base in the first five innings have never been slimmer.