Carrasco's tank 'not anywhere close to empty'

Carrasco's tank 'not anywhere close to empty'

OAKLAND -- The slider popped into Roberto Perez's glove and the catcher gave an emphastic pump of his right fist. The pitch that Carlos Carrasco released seconds earlier dove under the bat of Khris Davis for a strikeout, bringing an end to the sixth inning and Oakland's only real threat on Monday night.

In a 1-0 victory at the Coliseum, Carrasco was in cruise control. The same could be said for more than the big right-hander's performance against the A's, though. Right now, Carrasco appears to be hitting his stride as Cleveland continues to set its sights on the club's first division crown since 2007.

"You can tell his tank is not anywhere close to empty," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

While baseball's best workhorses are only a handful of starts away from 200 innings, Carrasco is sitting on 124 frames for the American League Central-leading Tribe. The Indians weathered the storm that was an early-season stay on the disabled list for the righty, who missed nearly six weeks after sustaining a hamstring injury at the end of April.

The fortunate aspect of Carrasco's stint on the shelf was that his powerful right arm was unaffected. He kept throwing to stay ready until his legs allowed him to return. Now, as other starters around the game are dealing with the late-August fatigue that tests many a pitcher's mettle, Carrasco looks like he is just settling into that mid-summer groove.

"I feel like it's the middle of the season for me right now," Carrasco said.

The A's can attest to that, too.

In the opener of this three-game set, Carrasco struck out nine and issued no walks, giving him 28 strikeouts and zero free passes over his past three turns (21 2/3 innings). Since allowing eight runs in an abbreviated effort on Aug. 2, when Minnesota chased the righty after 3 2/3 innings, Carrasco has posted a 3.14 ERA with a .231 opponents' average and 37:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28 2/3 innings.

As the season has worn on, Carrasco's slider and changeup have improved, too. Against Oakland, the right-hander focused on fastballs and sliders, generating 10 of his 18 swings-and-misses with the latter. The slider that induced the inning-ending swing from Davis in the sixth came with runners on first and second. Oakland did not have a runner advance beyond first in any other frame.

"With the repetition, you're seeing his secondary pitches getting sharper," Francona said.

Oakland's pitching was pristine on Monday -- Carlos Santana's homer in the eighth being the lone blemish -- but Carrasco was overpowering.

"Carrasco is just so darn good," said lefty Andrew Miller, who struck out three in the ninth to earn the save.

If Carrasco is indeed finding another gear as the summer turns to fall, that would be a great development for Cleveland.

Ace Corey Kluber has also been strong of late, but Danny Salazar is only one start removed from a recent DL stint and Josh Tomlin has dealt with some recent struggles on the hill. Since mid-July, Trevor Bauer has bounced between hot and cold. If the Indians punch their ticket to the October stage, having a healthy and thriving one-two punch of Kluber and Carrasco would give the Tribe an intimidating foundation.

"He was really crisp tonight," Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall said. "He's probably about to hit his stride. You saw what he was doing tonight. Maybe, [that DL stint helped] that body. If we're making that run into September and October, I'm sure he's going to be a big part."

Francona agreed.

"He's getting into the middle of his season," said the manager. "I think that bodes well for him, which bodes well for us."

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.