Carrasco evolving into Tribe's de facto ace

Carrasco evolving into Tribe's de facto ace

CLEVELAND -- Although Carlos Carrasco is the No. 2 man in the Indians' starting rotation, the right-hander has pitched like an ace this season. Carrasco deilvered once again on Monday for the Indians, spinning seven strong innings to lead the Indians to a 5-3 win over the Athletics at Progressive Field.

Carrasco allowed two runs on four hits with two walks and a hit batter, striking out seven. He faced just five batters over the minimum, throwing 101 pitches (69 strikes) en route to his fifth win of the season, and his first at Progressive Field. Carrasco credited his success to his ability to command his fastball, and to keep hitters off balance with his slider.

"[My slider] was good," Carrasco said. "I don't know how many I threw today, but otherwise, it was great for strikeouts and ground balls. But more important, it was trying to get those guys off balance, and that's what we did."

The only blemishes on Carrasco's performance came in the seventh, as Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healy connected for back-to-back home runs. Other than that, Carrasco stymied the A's before turning it over to the bullpen in the eighth.

"I thought he was very good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He fell behind a couple hitters and kind of laid a fastball in there and they hit the two solos. Then they end up with three solos. But other than that, I thought he was really good. Very good breaking ball, used it when he was supposed to. I thought he did a really good job."

The lone jam Carrasco found himself in came in the third inning. After recording the first two outs, Carrasco issued a six-pitch walk to Matt Joyce before former Indian Rajai Davis singled to right, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. But Carrasco struck out Chad Pinder to end the inning and strand two on base. The Indians followed by scoring all five of their runs in the next two innings, giving the right-hander plenty to work with.

Carrasco's strong outing comes after he struggled his two previous starts, allowing a combined nine runs over 10 innings. He returned to form on Sunday, and held the opposing team to three runs or less for the eighth time in 10 starts this season.

"He's good," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "He's got a good fastball, he's got a good breaking ball, and he's throwing strikes. He keeps you off-balance. He reads swings well. He spins the ball really well. One's a slider and one's a little less with the curveball. He's always been able to do that."

With the struggles that the Indians' starting rotation has faced this season -- ace Corey Kluber missing most of May with a back injury, for starters -- Carrasco has been the team's de facto ace and most consistent starter. Francona credited Carrasco for the load he has carried this season.

"He's built to log innings, and with his stuff, he should be able to do what he's doing," Francona said. "I don't think that this is just a good streak for him. I think he can be this kind of a pitcher."

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.