Carrasco struggles, says 'nothing was there'

Tribe right-hander gives up six runs in 2/3 of an inning

April 13th, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- Some days, pitchers just don’t have their best stuff. But when it’s happened twice through the first three starts of the season, it can be even more frustrating.

For the second time this year, allowed six runs, leading to the Indians’ 8-1 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Friday, snapping Kansas City’s 10-game losing skid. But this time, the righty recorded just two outs, exiting in the first frame after 28 pitches. It was his shortest start since he was drilled with a comebacker that broke his hand on Sept. 17, 2016, on the second pitch of the game.

“I mean [catcher] Roberto [Perez] even mentioned, ‘I couldn’t get him to throw with conviction,’” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Because when he does, the break on his slider’s great and it’s good. He’s got one of the better fastballs. Again, it’s not Carlos-like and it put us behind the eight ball.”

Carrasco faced nine hitters and the results of the plate appearances were: single, triple, homer, walk, single, single, sacrifice fly, strikeout and double. The six runs scored were the most he’s allowed in any inning of his career.

“To be honest with you, nothing was there,” Carrasco said. “My command, my velo, nothing was there.”

The velocity on all of Carrasco’s pitches was down from what he averaged through the 155 pitches in his previous two outings. On Friday, his 15 fastballs averaged 91.5 mph, the 12 sliders were 81.8 mph and his one changeup -- that resulted in a two-run blast by Alex Gordon -- was 84.3 mph. Leading up to this start, the 32-year-old’s fastball was averaging 93.7 mph (93.7 mph in 2018), the slider was 84.4 mph (83.9 mph in ‘18) and his changeup was 86.9 mph (88 mph in ‘18). Despite the dip in speed, Carrasco said he is healthy.

“To be honest, in the bullpen I thought he was going to have a great day,” Perez said. “But once he got on the bump in the game it was a different Carlos. Like I said, he just didn’t look like Carlos. He lost it. ... He’ll be back. We’re going to figure it out.”

The Indians entered Friday with MLB’s second-best ERA (2.57) and the team has leaned on its pitching staff all season, while it waits for its lineup to get back to full strength. Now that Mike Clevinger will miss at least the next six to eight weeks, the importance of Carrasco’s performances only increases. But after two six-run outings -- the first coming in his season debut on March 31 in Minnesota -- the righty’s ERA has jumped to 12.60.

“It’s really hard, man, when you don’t have your stuff like the first game, now,” Carrasco said. “I cannot do that, like go back and forth. You know, have one game, good game, bad game, good game, bad game. I cannot do that. … Nothing was there today. I’m glad everything is good and I’m healthy, but I couldn’t find myself.”

What’s this mean for the bullpen?

Not only did Carrasco’s early departure put the Tribe’s offense in an early hole that it could not dig out from, it also caused the Tribe to go through six relievers.

“I mean right off the bat it just didn’t look like he was letting it go with conviction,” Francona said of Carrasco. “You know, again, pitching out of the stretch after the first hitter and it just unraveled from there. But that makes it really tough on the staff because then you’re looking at trying to go eight innings with your bullpen, which puts a real strain on everybody.”

Nick Wittgren relieved Carrasco in the first and worked 1 1/3 scoreless frames. Tyler Olson then allowed one run in two innings before Dan Otero gave up an unearned run in his one inning. Oliver Perez, Jon Edwards and Neil Ramirez then combined for three shutout frames.

With just Adam Cimber and Brad Hand fresh in the Tribe’s bullpen, Francona alluded to a potential move that could be made prior to Saturday’s game to give the Indians another relief option.

“We’ll have to figure some stuff out,” Francona said. “We’ll probably visit here a little bit.”