CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carrasco was waiting inside the clubhouse after his teammates celebrated an emotional extra-inning victory on the field under a stream of fireworks on Saturday night. The pitcher wanted to be there to congratulate them, and to thank them for overcoming his early exit.
In a cruel twist to Cleveland's quest to play deep into October, Carrasco was struck by a line drive two pitches into the first inning of the Tribe's 1-0, 10-inning walk-off triumph over Detroit in a critical contest at Progressive Field. He sustained a non-displaced fracture of a bone in his right hand and is done for the regular season, delivering a crushing blow to an Indians club with World Series aspirations.
Cleveland's rotation now consists of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and a slew of question marks. Righty Josh Tomlin will hope to continue his comeback from a rough August, rookie Mike Clevinger will hope to build on his recent success, and the fifth spot will likely consist of a bullpen day for the remainder of the regular season.
After the ill-fated liner off the bat of Ian Kinsler in the first inning, Carrasco went off-site to undergo X-rays on his pitching hand, which began swelling immediately. The images showed a non-displaced break of the fifth metacarpal, which is a bone in the hand located beneath the pinky finger. The Indians did not announce an official timetable for return.
Carrasco and Danny Salazar (right forearm strain) are not only out for the rest of the season, but potentially for the entirety of whatever October run the Tribe might have in store. With the walk-off win over Detroit, Cleveland is one step closer to clinching an American League Central crown for the first time in nine years. The Tribe's lead over the Tigers in the division stands at eight games, and its magic number has been whittled down to seven.
Losing Carrasco, however, complicates Cleveland's potential postseason planning.
"It hurts," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It will make this more challenging, what we're trying to do. When we do it, it will feel all that much better. It's another challenge, but we feel like we'll figure it out."
In the first inning, Carrasco, had a 95-mph fastball sent back his way by Kinsler with an exit velocity of 101 mph, per Statcast™. As Carrasco finished his delivery, the line drive struck the pitcher on the hand. The big right-hander walked off the mound in clear pain, paced around and was quickly met by head athletic trainer James Quinlan and Francona.
As Carrasco was examined for several minutes, Francona met briefly with pitching coach Mickey Callaway. The manager then returned to the mound, where he lifted the starter from the game and called upon reliever Jeff Manship to take over. When Francona called down to the bullpen, the manager delivered a message to bullpen coach Jason Bere.
"I called J.B. down there and said, 'Tell them to put their seat belts on,'" Francona said, "'because they're all going to pitch and we're going to win.'"
"It was unbelievable," Callaway said of the bullpen. "It was awesome. That gives you a lot of confidence moving forward, that some of these young guys can step up. That was a big game, and they didn't let the pressure get to them."
Callaway noted that Tomlin would now start on Tuesday, followed by Kluber on Wednesday and Clevinger on Thursday, during the upcoming series against the Royals.
Salazar enjoyed a stellar first half worthy of a spot on the AL All-Star team, but he encountered a slew of injury woes in the second half. Tomlin only recently rejoined the rotation, logging five solid innings on Wednesday after going 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA in his August starts. Clevinger had been in the bullpen, but he is once again being built back up as a starter. He logged 85 pitches in a four-inning outing against the White Sox on Thursday.
"We have to make sure," Callaway said, "that these guys are all prepared to do whatever job they're going to do when it comes to the postseason. The good thing is Kluber and Bauer can probably pitch every fourth day, or whenever you need them to. Bauer's arm never hurts and Kluber's just a beast. That helps.
"But we're going to prepare guys for the postseason, and if we get in, we'll go from there."
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.