Tribe's rotation getting stronger with Carrasco

Tribe's rotation getting stronger with Carrasco

CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carrasco's first pitch of the game taught him a lesson. A bullet off the bat of Alex Gordon over the right-field wall served as ammunition that the Indians right-hander would use against an aggressive Royals lineup for the rest of the night.

"Right away, I'm thinking, 'Those guys are coming aggressive on first pitch,'" Carrasco said after the Tribe's 8-3 victory. "I talked to [catcher Yan] Gomes a little bit about starting with breaking balls and then mixing in fastballs."

So that's what they did. Carrasco kept hitters off-balance by starting them off with a breaking ball that manager Terry Francona called among Carrasco's best of the year, and putting them away with his fastball that ran up to 97, and his always-devastating changeup.

It was a return to form for the 27-year-old Carrasco, who was making his second start after being activated from the disabled list following a bout of shoulder inflammation. The first one didn't go as smoothly, lasting just 2 2/3 innings after four earned runs, three walks and two homers.

This time? Six innings, one earned run, nine strikeouts, five hits, two walks and a homer.

"It was different today," Carrasco said. "The way that I felt today, and the way that I attacked today, that's what I've been feeling from the beginning of the season to now."

After Gordon's leadoff home run, Carrasco retired 15 of the next 18 batters before running into some trouble in the sixth. A two-out single by Lorenzo Cain was sandwiched between walks to that loaded the bases for Kendrys Morales, who represented the potential go-ahead run.

Carrasco went to the breaking ball that had been working all night for him, and it did the trick one last time.

"I just thought, 'Get an out,' and that's what I did," Carrasco said. "Really, I was supposed to throw a slider inside and it kind of went a little bit away. But I'm glad we got a ground ball."

Carrasco's night was done after the inning at 82 pitches, a step up from the 58 he was allotted in his initial start off the DL. Francona said Carrasco won't have a restriction next time out.

The win brought the Indians to .500 for just the fourth time this season and within 4 1/2 games of the Rangers for the second Wild Card. With Carrasco back to full strength and Corey Kluber set to return from a hamstring injury on Thursday, the rotation will soon be at full strength for the stretch run.

"Any time you have [Carrasco] and Kluber throwing like they can, it's something special," right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall said. "When Kluber steps on the mound, he's our ace of the staff, he's our leader. We're always in a good position with him up there. It's September. It's time to go.

August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.