Rotation the 'backbone' for streaking Tribe

Carrasco fans 14 in club-record-tying 13th consecutive win

Rotation the 'backbone' for streaking Tribe

TORONTO -- Chris Gimenez's eyes widened and he let out a laugh. After the Indians catcher gave a detailed breakdown of Carlos Carrasco's unique changeup -- an offering that acts like a splitter and comes in as hard as many other pitchers' fastballs -- he was asked if he is happy he only has to worry about getting a glove on it.

"Oh my god, yeah," Gimenez said after Thursday's 4-1 win over the Blue Jays. "I don't want to have any part of swinging at that thing."

It is a dominant pitch that can produce feeble swings and buckled knees, and it is one that Carrasco used to overpower Toronto in the opener of a four-game series at Rogers Centre. As has been the case throughout this ongoing historic run by the Indians, who tied a franchise record with 13 consecutive wins, it was the starting pitcher who paved the path to victory.

Carrasco had 13 strikeouts after seven innings, and the symmetry seemed fitting given the Tribe's winning streak, which equals the club-record runs Cleveland enjoyed in 1951 and '42. But the big right-hander took down Justin Smoak to open the eighth inning for No. 14. Now, the Indians will look to achieve that same number with a win in Friday's afternoon tilt in Toronto.

Next in line is Josh Tomlin, who grabbed the torch from Carrasco, who followed Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. It is a five-headed monster that is living up to the the preseason hype that deemed it -- maybe, just maybe -- up there with the Mets. As of this moment, there is no better group in the game, and it is that starting cast that has not only powered this 13-game run, but pushed the Indians to the top of the American League Central.

"This rotation," Indians closer Cody Allen said, "it's the backbone of the team. We know that."

Over the course of The Streak, the Indians' rotation has gone a combined 10-0 with a 1.86 ERA and a .165 opponents' batting average. The starters have tallied 91 strikeouts against 24 walks in 97 innings, averaging roughly 7 1/3 innings per outing over that 13-game stretch.

Carrasco's 7 1/3 great innings

As it happens, Carrasco went precisely 7 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays, whose lone offensive output was a solo homer in the fourth by Josh Donaldson. After that shot, Carrasco abandoned his slider -- the pitch crushed by the reigning AL MVP -- focused on his changeup and curveball, and struck out nine of the next 13.

That included a knee-shaking curve that locked up Donaldson to end the sixth, when another home run could have tied it.

"After he got that homer," Carrasco said, "I said, 'OK, Let's do this. Let's strike him out or get a ground ball or something like that.' That run, they didn't get it."

That is the kind of tone the rotation has set throughout this incredible run by Cleveland, which has the longest winning streak in the AL since the Moneyball A's won 20 straight in 2002.

Allen closes the door in the 9th

The Indians are not looking that many wins ahead.

In fact, manager Terry Francona -- true to his nature -- acted as though he did not even know where the Tribe's streak stood.

"I really haven't spent one moment thinking about that," Francona said. "You turn the page pretty quick. If you start taking time to sit back and evaluate two weeks ago, then tomorrow might not be so good. So, we'll just play tomorrow and let other people talk about that."

Francona would, however, talk about his rotation.

"We've said all along, from Spring Training, that we wanted to rely on our pitching," said the manager. "They have really done a great job."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.