By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
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CLEVELAND: What’s good about losing five in a row? Nothing, but sometimes the old silver lining creeps through all the dark clouds.
That’s kind of the way it was Friday night at Progressive Field, where the Indians lost their fifth consecutive game, succumbing to the Los Angeles Angels 5-2.
Scott Kazmir was uncharacteristically vulnerable, and by the end of the first inning, the Tribe had fallen into a deep hole, and Jered Weaver kept the Wavering Wahoos from climbing out.
So what was the silver lining? Carlos Carrasco (remember him?) was summoned from Triple-A Columbus after the loss Thursday night to the Detroit Tigers and delivered five strong innings in relief.
Indians manager Terry Francona’s explanation of Kazmir’s problems and Kazmir’s explanation of Kazmir’s problems were similar.
“I think he’s a little tired,” Francona said. “He wanted to answer the bell because it was an important game. I think we need to get him a couple of extra days [off]. Going through a whole year pitching every five days was not realistic. And he’s not hurt.”
Kazmir (7-5, 4.18 ERA) has not pitched a full major-league season since 2010, and last year was playing for an independent league team in Texas to relearn his mechanics.
“I feel like I’m going through a little dead-arm period,” he said. “I think everyone is. I tried to go out there and gut it out, and it just didn’t work out.”
The first inning was disastrous for Kazmir, who gave up five runs on a walk and five hits, including Josh Hamilton’s 17th home run of the season, a three-run blast that capped the rally.
Kazmir hasn’t been so rudely treated by an opposing team in almost two months. The last time he endured that kind of a pounding was June 15, when he gave up five runs in 2⅔ innings to the Nationals.
It took Kazmir 40 pitches to get three outs in the first inning, but the Angels failed to continue their assault. Kazmir retired the last two batters in the first plus six in a row to get through the third.
Yet when he gave up a single to Erick Aybar to start the fourth, Francona yanked him. It’s obviously not ideal to average 20-some pitches per inning, but it’s reasonable to believe that Kazmir had something left after throwing 63 pitches. But even before the game, Francona and Kazmir knew he needed a break from the normal routine.
“I’ve felt great, but after my start in Miami, we talked about getting a couple of extra days off,” Kazmir said.
So once the leadoff batter in the fourth reached base, Francona summoned Matt Albers from the bullpen, and he finished the inning without incident.
“Making a guy labor, that doesn’t help,” Francona said of Kazmir.
Why Albers instead of Carrasco, who was called up Friday for the precise purpose of pitching long relief? Francona wanted Carrasco to start an inning, not enter the game with a runner on base. As a career starter, Carrasco is not accustomed to beginning an outing having to pitch from the stretch and worrying about a runner.
But Carrasco did start the fifth inning and pitched the rest of the game, giving up just one hit and three walks while striking out four. It was by far his best outing for the season in the big leagues.
“Having Carrasco was huge,” Francona said. “He gave us a chance to win and he saved the bullpen.”
Carrasco is making his fourth visit of the year to Cleveland, and coming into the game Friday night, he was 0-4 with a 9.10 ERA. Why was this time different?
“When I went to Columbus, I started working on the mental part of the game,” Carrasco said. “The game is about 80 percent up here. You have to have a plan.”
Carrasco might be worked into a start to give Kazmir time off.
Unfortunately for the Indians, the five-run first was too much for them to overcome. The Angels led off the series with Weaver (7-5, 2.87 ERA) as their starter, not a bad way to begin.
In workmanlike fashion, Weaver kept the Tribe at bay inning after inning, despite a few slip-ups. He was helped with a double play in the fourth inning and the fact that most of the time anyone hit a ball hard, it was directed to one of his defenders.
Three Indians squared up his pitches in the second but only one run ensued. Cabrera led off with a line drive that was snatched out of the air by Mark Trumbo at first.
Michael Brantley followed by hitting a ball that eluded everyone. That’s because it sailed over the right field wall for his eighth home run of the year. After Carlos Santana grounded out, Jason Giambi hit a line drive to right, but Collin Cowgill got in the way of it.
The Tribe’s only other run came on Cabrera’s ninth homer of the season leading off the fourth inning.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.