Stephanie Storm’s final thoughts on the Indians 6-0 shutout over the visiting Baltimore Orioles - a night that belonged to Carlos Carrasco, whose brilliance on the mound was powered by home runs by first baseman Carlos Santana (three-run home run in the first inning) and Michael Brantley (two-run homer in the fifth) - but certainly not overshadowed by them.
1) It was a game that proved how Carrasco’s season has come full circle. Admit it, if anyone had told you after the right-hander’s disastrous start as the No. 5 starter in which he went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in four April starts that before the end of the season he’d be back in the rotation dominating opponents like the explosive Orioles offense, you might have laughed. Choked on your cereal. Spit out your beer. Yep, that’s how bad he was.
2) The first month of the season wasn’t quit over yet and he’d already been banished to the bullpen, where he could work on his mechanical issues in obscurities and blowouts. But I’d always guessed with Carrasco, his struggles were just as much mental. That’s because in a repeat of the 2013 season, Carrasco quickly became a model of consistency as a reliever. In 26 appearances out of the ‘pen, he went 3-1 with a save and 2.30 ERA with 39 strikes to nine walks.
3) I kept thinking, if the Tribe brass were smart, they’d just leave him alone and let him remain in a role that works for him. But to their credit, they never gave up Carrasco’s potential as a starter.
Show’s you how much I know. Here we are two starts into his second chance at the role and Carrasco has dominated.
4) Saturday’s outing marked his second since his return to the rotation, and was even more impressive than his first outing last week in five scoreless innings against the host New York Yankees. Against the 69-51 Orioles, Carrasco limited the Birds to three hits over seven shutout innings, while striking out five.
5) He has now has gone 2-0 with 12 scoreless innings in a triumphant return. Chew on that for a minute. Yeah, stuns me, too. What has changed in three and a half months?
“I think he’s better equipped to pitch - whether it’s in the bullpen or starting,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I think he feels good about himself. I think being out in the bullpen helped him a lot. It let him settle in and get his confidence and kind of understand who he is. Now, he's taken the same mentality into the starts.”
6) Francona said pitching coach Mickey Callaway and bullpen coach Kevin Cash had been bugging him for some time to give Carrasco another shot at starting, telling him Carrasco was ready - physically and mentally.
Francona wasn’t sure initially, and wasn’t afraid to admit such. But then when the August schedule had his club had a usual stretch of three scheduled days off in a span of eight days, Francona finally realized that if there ever was a time to give Carrasco a shot at transitioning back to a starting role, it was right now.
“We talked about him wanting a spot in the rotation in the spring,” Francona said. “But now, he’s gone out and earned it by what he’s done pitching. That should be really rewarding for him - because he deserves it.”
7) Carrasco always has a way of simplifying things, shrugging his shoulders and making complex questions seem silly. Asked how he’s been able to turn things around so completely, he smiled his dimpled smile and said simply: “I did the same job I did in New York. But this time, I just went as hard as I could go with everything.”