By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
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MINNEAPOLIS: Long after Carlos Carrasco’s abbreviated workday was finished, the Indians rallied from a four-run deficit to tie the Minnesota Twins 7-7 in the eighth inning Wednesday afternoon.
But even though the Tribe went on to win 9-8 in 12 innings, Carrasco’s struggles remained an issue.
And not the only issue.
Chris Perez blew another save. After Carlos Santana led off the 10th inning by launching a drive that cleared the wall in left-center for his 14th home run of the season, Perez needed to retire three batters to preserve the win.
But after Perez induced Brian Dozier to hit a fly to left, Joe Mauer picked on a 2-and-0 pitch and sent it soaring into the seats in left for his 10th homer of the year to tie the score again.
“I was hoping Mauer was tired,” manager Terry Francona said, alluding to Mauer having five hits in the game. “He had a pretty good day. With him catching and everything, that was pretty impressive.”
Perez actually backed into a win, when the Tribe scored in the 12th on singles by Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis, Santana’s fly ball that moved Swisher to third and a sacrifice fly by Michael Brantley.
Santana’s homer came off Glen Perkins, who has given up three home runs to the Tribe catcher.
“I have faced him a lot because he is in our division,” Santana said. “I’m not confident facing just him; I’m confident facing any pitcher.”
The first heroic blast came off the bat of Jason Giambi, whose three-run homer capped a four-run rally in the eighth to wipe out the Twins’ 7-3 advantage.
Ten days ago, Perez was assigned to protect a 2-0 lead in the ninth against the Detroit Tigers. Instead he gave up four runs, which precipitated a four-game sweep for the American League Central Division leaders. Since then, Perez has saved two games but has four blown saves in 23 opportunities.
“He pitched really well today,” Francona said. “But he fell behind 2-and-0 to the wrong guy. To his credit, he went back out there and got them out the next inning.”
It took only two batters for Carrasco to find trouble. Mauer’s single, Justin Morneau’s double, a sacrifice fly by Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia’s RBI double gave the Twins a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Carrasco gave another two more runs in the second on four consecutive hits with one out. It might have been worse, but he picked off Dozier at first.
In the fifth, Carrasco gave up consecutive singles to start the inning, then struck out Arcia. By that time, Carrasco had thrown 71 pitches and Francona had seen enough.
“His stuff is always good, consistently from start to finish,” Francona said. “He holds his stuff all the way through. But he keeps making mistakes. Sometimes he makes one, two or three in an inning and he pays for it.”
In 4⅓ innings, Carrasco was charged with four runs on 10 hits and no walks.
Was it a coincidence that Carrasco was more effective pitching in relief, not knowing if he was going to pitch rather than thinking about each start for four days.
“I was more aggressive in the bullpen,” he said. “Starting feels different than that first time in relief. The first two innings today, I was a little lazy [with my command].”
Carrasco was called up from Triple-A Columbus last week in case the Tribe needed a long reliever against the Los Angeles Angels. The timing was excellent, because Scott Kazmir’s start on Thursday lasted only three innings, and after Matt Albers worked the fourth, Carrasco was summoned and pitched five strong innings, allowing one hit and three walks.
So when Francona decided that Kazmir needed a three-day break because of a tired arm, Carrasco became the ideal fill-in, which is how he came to pitch Wednesday.
But his outing against the Twins bore no resemblance to his long relief masterpiece against the Angels. The question is what happens to Carrasco now?
“We really need the off day,” Francona said of the break today. “We’ll regroup and sit down and figure out what we need to do.”
Francona does not need six starters (Kazmir returns to the rotation Sunday), particularly if one of them is Carrasco pitching like he did Wednesday. He probably won’t be kept on as a long man, because those kind of relievers aren’t likely to get enough work to remain sharp.
Unfortunately for Carrasco, his workmanship as a starter at the big-league level has been horrid this year. In six games, he has posted a 9.00 ERA with an 0-3 record.
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.