Covering the Bases: Game 23

425CarrascoFinal: Giants 5, Indians 1

FIRST: It wasn’t quite the Fiasco in Frisco, but Carlos Carrasco’s early-season struggles continued in the City by the Bay on Friday night.

That Carrasco’s line (six innings, five hits, four runs, one walk, six strikeouts) was an improvement should tell you all you need to know about his season to date. Against the Giants, he pitched better than he has, but the Tribe still faced an early hole.

“He was pitching out of the stretch probably three pitches into the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Two batters in, San Francisco had one run, thanks to a hard single from Angel Pagan and a triple from Hunter Pence. The Giants had a 3-1 lead by the end of the third (the ol’ shut-down inning eluded Cleveland again) and Michael Morse made it 4-1 with a towering homer on an 0-2 fastball to open the fourth.

“I was supposed to throw down and away,” Carrasco said. “I just threw it in the middle.”

And so it goes.

Carrasco is now 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA through four starts this season. Since he last won a Major League game on June 29, 2011, the right-hander has gone 0-12 with an 8.09 ERA in 17 starts, giving up 77 earned runs in 85.2 innings. There were times within that stretch to put some of the blame on his Tommy John surgery and subsequent recovery. That no longer flies.

Does Carrasco worry about his job security?

“Yes, every day,” he said. “I pitch every five days, I worry every single day.”

No one has said anything yet about pulling Carrasco out of the rotation. I still don’t think that’s going to happen right now. The relievers in place are performing well as a whole and Carrasco’s next step, if he’s not going to start, would be to move to the ‘pen. Cleveland can’t just send him down (he’s out of options), and you can bet a team would put in a claim if the big righty hit waivers.

It’s also worth considering that moving Carrasco would strip a layer of starting depth. Sure, the Indians could move him to the bullpen and call up either Trevor Bauer or Josh Tomlin. There’s no turning back if Carrasco moves to the ‘pen, though, and that decision would put the Indians one unpredicted injury or setback away from having their rotation depth exposed.

If Indians fans and reporters are mulling all these factors, you can bet the Indians are giving it deep thought, too.

SECOND: All winter long, and throughout Spring Training, Carrasco worked with pitching coach Mickey Callaway on raising his lead arm in his delivery to create more deception. After Friday’s loss, Carrasco said he’s noticed a flaw with that mechanical adjustment.

“I feel different when I start doing my leadoff arm down a little bit,” Carrasco said. “I feel different when I go up. Up, I’m [throwing] 90-92 [mph]. When down, I just went 94-96. That’s how I feel. I feel more strong when I do that.”

So, Carrasco feels stronger when he has a slightly lower angle, but perhaps the deception is lacking. When he’s raised, the deception might be there, but the velocity is decreased. This is certainly something we’ll follow up on with Callaway in the coming days.

As for that fastball, it did seem to abandon Carrasco against the Giants.

“I thought his fastball command was kind of what plagued him a little bit tonight right from the get-go,” Francona said. “That’s one thing he usually kind of does have, and he was scattering some fastballs. That’s what got him into a little bit of trouble.”

All together, the Giants hit .300 (3-for-10) in at-bats that ended with a fastball, but they hit just .100 (1-for-10) against the right-hander’s slider and curveball combined. He mixed in one changeup that resulted in a hit, too. Entering Friday’s outing, hitters actually had a .346 average (9-for-26) in at-bats that ended with his four-seamer this year, according to Fangraphs.

THIRD: This past winter, Francona took on the role of recruiter in trying to convince veteran right-hander Tim Hudson to sign with the Indians as a free agent. Hudson was coming back from a severe ankle injury, but Francona knows the pitcher from their days with the A’s, and he said the righty is “an easy guy to bet on.”

You can bet the Indians don’t want to see Hudson for a while.

Hudson signed a two-year, $23-million contract with the Giants over the winter and Cleveland paid the price on Friday night. Over seven innings, the 38-year-old veteran scattered four hits, allowed only one run, struck out five and walked two.

(Hudson actually set a franchise record — since 1900 — by starting the season with 30 walk-free innings. Carlos Santana ended that with a walk in the first inning, and he drew another free pass against the righty in the sixth.)

“He’s a veteran guy,” Nick Swisher said. “So if you go out there a little too geeked up, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s been doing this for a long time. He did a great job against us tonight. We just have to worry about tomorrow.

“He doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He’s not sitting there at mid-90′s. But he has a lot of movement on his fastball. He throws that front hip-check fastball. Likes to throw that backdoor cutter. He really uses his change up well.”

HOME: All of that said, hitting with runners in scoring position has been an issue all month for the Indians. They headed into Friday’s game with a .230 mark as a team with RISP, including a .149 average with RISP and two outs. Against San Francisco, Cleveland went 1-for-9 with RISP and stranded nine in the process.

“I feel that’s been our crutch as of late,” said Swisher, who had an RBI single on Friday, but has a .185 average with RISP. “We need to break out of that.”

On deck:

Indians (11-12) at Giants (13-10)
at 4:05 p.m. ET at AT&T Park

–JB

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