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Santana's bat not enough in Carrasco's start

@MandyBell02
March 31, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians knew that they’d have to rely on their starting pitching this year, just like they have the past few seasons. But the opening weekend in Minnesota may have proved just how much they will need to depend on it. Carlos Carrasco made his first start of

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians knew that they’d have to rely on their starting pitching this year, just like they have the past few seasons. But the opening weekend in Minnesota may have proved just how much they will need to depend on it.

Carlos Carrasco made his first start of the season in Sunday’s 9-3 loss to the Twins at Target Field. The 32-year-old right-hander allowed six runs on 10 hits through 4 1/3 innings -- including a two-run blast by Nelson Cruz -- leaving the Indians a deficit that Carlos Santana and his offense couldn’t fight back from.

Carrasco allowed eight batted balls of 100-plus mph, which is his most in any outing tracked by Statcast since 2015.

“He couldn’t get his breaking ball where he wanted to,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You know, a couple times against [Byron] Buxton he got ahead a quick 0-2 and left a breaking ball middle, cost him two runs. He was trying to squirm out of that inning. Same thing with [Nelson] Cruz, breaking ball. Just wasn’t able to get it where he wanted to for most of the day. That’s where it caused most of the damage.”

Santana did his best to carry the offense, recording four of the team’s six hits, but his bases-clearing double in the eighth was not enough to spark a late-game comeback. Santana’s bat will continue to be an important piece in the Indians’ lineup while Francisco Lindor (left ankle sprain and right calf strain) and Jason Kipnis (right calf strain) work their way back from injuries. The Tribe’s offense has gotten off to a slow start in the cold early-season temperatures, but they will need Santana’s bat to stay hot to keep themselves in contention and potentially start a ripple effect throughout the order.

“I’m focused,” Santana said. “I’m feeling good right now, I have to keep it up. I know the weather, it’s tough, but we have to figure it out and see.”

In the first two games of the three-game set in Minnesota, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer held the Twins to two runs and one run, respectively. Cleveland walked away with a victory in Bauer’s start, but was shut out on Opening Day. While the cold weather sticks around for the first few weeks, and as Lindor and Kipnis are on the sideline, the Indians starting pitchers will need to be on their game each time they take the mound in order to give their offense a chance. Through the Tribe’s first three games, they’ve scored five runs and struck out 39 times.

“Well, they’re not helpful to win,” Francona said of the strikeouts. “I think we’ve got some veterans that are struggling a little bit the first couple of games and we’ve got some young guys that are trying to get their feet on the ground. It’s always a fight when you have weather like this. It feels colder when you’re losing. But we’ll be OK. Like I said, it’s not fun to sit through it like that and watch guys strike out. That’ll turn around.”

Because it’s only been three games, Francona is not worried about the slow start that the offense has gotten off to and was pleased to see the team get some base runners in the eighth inning, including watching Eric Stamets reach base safely on a walk for the first time in his big league career. In the ninth, Stamets was at the plate with runners on first and second, but popped out to the catcher in foul territory.

“You want guys to start feeling good about themselves, not just trying to keep their head above water,” Francona said. “You want them to go up there feeling good. So, heck yeah, I was yelling for Stamets in the ninth inning. You want guys to start to feel like, ‘OK, I can do this.’”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.