Carrasco dominates White Sox for red-hot Tribe

Right-hander strikes out eight over 8 2/3; Brantley, Santana have RBIs

Carrasco dominates White Sox for red-hot Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carraso's return to the rotation began in impressive fashion a month ago. When the right-hander carried the intitial success over a handful of starts, it seemed like a pleasant surprise and an encouraging development for an Indians staff in need of a lift.

After Carrasco's latest performance, perhaps the time has come to expect these kinds of days for the pitcher. On Sunday afternoon, the big right-hander worked into the ninth inning to lead Cleveland to a 2-0 victory, completing a three-game sweep of the White Sox at Progressive Field.

"I'll tell you what, it's been so nice," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco's recent showing. "You put a guy in the rotation and you certainly hope for the best, but my goodness. He looks so strong."

It was a much-needed brooming of Chicago in the wake of Cleveland opening September by losing three of four games to the Tigers, who are one of the clubs the Tribe is chasing in both the American League Central and Wild Card races. Pitching has keyed Cleveland's 21-12 run since the start of August, and Carrasco continued that trend in Sunday's series finale.

Dating back to Aug. 9, which was the day prior to Carrasco's move back to the rotation, the Tribe's starting staff has turned in a 1.84 ERA with 168 strikeouts in 161 2/3 innings (25 games). The Indians entered the day with the third-lowest team ERA in the Majors in the second half, and lowered that figure to 2.82 after Sunday's showing.

The Indians have stayed in the postseason picture as a result, five games back of the Royals in the AL Central and 3 1/2 back of the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card.

"We're running out of months," Francona said. "Not days, but months. So, we need to make up some ground. I don't know if you can go into a series thinking about a sweep, because I don't think that's a very productive way to play, but now that it's over, it certainly helps. Now, it makes tomorrow that much bigger."

One day after Corey Kluber turned in a complete game against Chicago, Carrasco followed suit with 8 2/3 shutout innings of his own. In his 103-pitch effort, Carrasco piled up eight strikeouts, scattered four hits, issued no walks and created 13 outs via ground balls.

Carrasco, who improved to 7-4 with a 2.68 ERA on the season, admitted that his performance of late has even surprised himself.

"To be honest, yes," he said. "But I think it's something that I have right now, and I need to continue to do that."

Indians closer Cody Allen, who retired the final out to notch his 19th save, has been blown away by Carrasco's move from the 'pen to the starting staff.

"He's got unbelievable stuff. He's very, very good," Allen said. "To see him transition back to the rotation and see him do as well as he has with the hard work, to see him have that type of success, is awesome."

Two of Chicago's hits off Carrasco were doubles, but the starter quickly escaped both jams. Conor Gillaspie led off with a double in the second inning before Carrasco used two groundouts and a strikeout to strand the runner. In the fifth, Andy Wilkins came through with a one-out double for the White Sox, but Carrasco struck out the next two batters he faced to avoid harm.

Against Chicago right-hander Scott Carroll, Cleveland managed an early run for Carrasco to use as he saw fit.

In the first inning, Michael Bourn sent a pitch from Carroll over the head of White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton, paving the way for the outfielder's AL-leading 10th triple of the season. Two batters later, All-Star Michael Brantley singled to center, scoring Bourn to give Cleveland a 1-0 advantage. That was all the damage done off Carroll in his first six innings of work.

The Indians scored just seven total runs in the sweep over the White Sox, but the lack of offense was overcome by the stellar performances on the mound.

"When you get good pitching," Francona said, "it makes everything look better."

Carroll bowed out of the ballgame after yielding a leadoff single to Tribe catcher Roberto Perez in the eighth inning, and Cleveland went on to load the bases with one out. Carrasco received some much needed insurance when Perez scored from third on a groundout from Carlos Santana.

It was not much, but Carrasco made it work.

Dating back to Aug. 10, when Carrasco moved out of the bullpen and back into the rotation, the righty has gone 4-0 with a 0.70 ERA in six starts. Across 38 2/3 innings in that span, Carrasco has allowed three earned runs, issued four walks, piled up 42 strikeouts and limited hitters to a .179 (25-for-140) batting average.

After Carrasco gave up two hits in the ninth inning, though, Francona emerged from the dugout in order to turn the game over to Allen. Carrasco understood the manager's thinking, but the pitcher wanted desperately to finish the game.

"So bad," Carrasco said with a laugh. "But I think he made the right move."

Allen took over and needed only three pitches to induce a game-ending flyout off the bat of Gillaspie.

Cleveland needs every victory it can get right now.

"Every game means something for us. Every game," Carrasco said. "Everyone in the rotation is pitching great. We need to do that."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.