Carlos Carrasco’s struggles as an Indians starter surfaced again Friday night in San Francisco, as the embattled right-handed pitcher gave up four early runs before settling in on the mound at AT&T Park.
Problem is, the four runs were plenty enough to jump start the Giants to victory, who went on to win 5-1 in a chilly first game of the weekend’s three-game series.
“I thought his fastball command was kind of what plagued him a little bit tonight right from the get-go,” Indians manager Terry 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.”
Carrasco dished up two first-inning runs after Angel Pagan led off with a single and Hunter Pence followed with a run-scoring triple. A walk and three batters later, Michael Morse drove in Pence with a sacrifice fly.
Although the Indians cut the deficit to a run in the third inning when Michael Bourn led off with a triple and scored on Nick Swisher’s single, Carrasco couldn’t hold the Giants pat. He allowed runs in the next two innings – including a towering fourth-inning home run to Morse that increased the host’s lead to three runs, 4-1.
“I was supposed to throw down and away,” Carrasco said of his 0-2 pitch to Morse. “(Instead) I just threw it in the middle.”
After Morse’s homer, Carrasco (0-3) settled in and retired the final nine hitters he faced. He even finished the night having given up less hits (five) than strikeouts (six) with just one walk over six innings.
Although Carrasco seemed to give the Indians brass hope by finishing strong, they can’t be happy with the fact that the right-hander ditched his revamped delivery that consisted of raising his lead arm slot – the one he spent all off season working to perfect.
“I feel different when I start doing my leadoff arm down a little bit,” Carrasco admitted. “I feel different when I go up. Up, I’m (throwing) 90-92 (mph). When down, I was 94-96 (mph). That’s how I feel - I feel more strong when (it’s lower).”
Indians reliever Josh Outman replaced Carrasco to start the seventh, but didn’t fare much better in his brief outing. The Giants needed just two Outman pitches (with Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford swinging at the first pitch offerings) to score another run and pad their lead to lead to four runs.
Meanwhile, Giants starting pitcher Tim Hudson limited the Indians to their lone run, giving up four hits and two walks while striking out five to earn the win and improve to 3-1. But his modern-era franchise record of 30-innings without a walk came an end when Carlos Santana worked a pair of walks against him.
“He kept the ball down and he really located,” Swisher said of Hudson. “He used his change up, sinker and a little breaking ball effectively tonight. He’s a veteran guy. 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.”
Hudson was especially tough on the Tribe’s five left-handed hitters in the lineup.
“He doesn’t have overpowering stuff,” said the switch-hitting Swisher. “He’s not sitting there at mid-90s. 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.”
As well as Hudson pitched, the Indians still had plenty of chances with runners on base in multiple innings. But the Tribe went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“We didn’t do a very good job of getting him up on the zone,” Swisher said. “We left about eight or nine guys on base. I feel that’s been our crutch as of late. We need to break out of that.”
The Indians had one final chance against reliever Javier Lopez, who came on in the ninth in the non-save save situation to close the game. But closer Sergio Romo did have to get up start warming up when Lopez struggled to slam door on the pesky Tribe.
A fielding error allowed Indians lead off man Asdrubal Cabrera to reach base safely. Then pinch hitter Mike Aviles shot a liner up the middle for an appearant double play, but Lopez dropped the ball as well before recovering in time to just nab Aviles at first for the first out.
Lopez recovered to strike out David Murphy for the second out, but pinch hitter Ryan Raburn worked a walk to put Indians at the corners before Bourn grounded out to first to end the game.