KANSAS CITY -- As Indians starter Carlos Carrasco worked through his final few Royals batters on Sunday, Tribe pitcher Trevor Bauer fired weighted baseballs into a wall in the visitors' bullpen. It was an unusual, but necessary arrangement, for Cleveland's final regular-season game.In a 2-1 win at Kauffman Stadium, Carrasco
KANSAS CITY -- As Indians starter Carlos Carrasco worked through his final few Royals batters on Sunday, Tribe pitcher Trevor Bauer fired weighted baseballs into a wall in the visitors' bullpen. It was an unusual, but necessary arrangement, for Cleveland's final regular-season game.
In a 2-1 win at Kauffman Stadium, Carrasco handled the first five innings before Bauer finished things out. It was a reversal in roles from Tuesday, when Bauer started against the White Sox and Carrasco came out of the bullpen. With innings running out in the regular season, the approach served as preparation for the upcoming American League Division Series against the Astros.
"We've done the very best we could," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We tried to manage some challenges we've had. I think we need a good week of practice, which I think our guys will do, but I think it's time. I think the guys have felt like it for a while. It's kind of like the end of Spring Training. Let's go play."
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The AL Central-champion Indians (91-71) tapered the pitch counts of both ace Corey Kluber and Carrasco over the past two days, giving the club's top two starters a lighter workload ahead of the ALDS. Kluber (80 pitches on Saturday) is slated to start Game 1 on Friday, followed by Carrasco (77 pitches on Sunday) in Game 2 on Saturday in Houston.
"I really feel happy," Carrasco said of the Game 2 assignment. "I got experience last year -- Game 3 [of the ALDS] in New York. … I'm just going to prepare myself the same way I've been doing the whole season."
Cleveland has yet to announce its plans for Game 3, but Bauer's final appearance needed to be factored into the equation prior to making anything official.
Francona said Sunday that the team's plans will be unveiled in the coming days. Cleveland has four days of workouts planned leading up to the ALDS, giving the team time to sort through its scouting reports and roster alignments. The Indians have until Friday morning to put the final touches on its ALDS roster.
"Honestly, I don't think a lot of people are looking at us," Indians third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "You get a lot of talk about New York and Boston. But I think we're going to come in and hopefully surprise some people. I definitely think the talent and ability is here to be able to make a run."
Carrasco held the Royals (58-104) off the board for the first four innings before surrendering two hits, including an RBI single to Meibrys Viloria, in the fifth. The big right-hander struck out six and walked two in the outing, which put the finishing touches on a strong campaign. Overall, Carrasco went 17-10 with a 3.38 ERA and 231 strikeouts vs. 43 walks in 192 innings.
Bauer ended his stellar season with four innings in Kansas City, tacking two strikeouts onto his 2018 line. The right-hander was a leading contender for the AL Cy Young Award earlier in the summer, but a six-week stint on the disabled list between August and September took a toll on his chances of grabbing any season-end hardware.
In 28 appearances this season, Bauer finished 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and 221 strikeouts against 57 walks in 175 1/3 innings.
Bauer, who sustained a stress fracture in his right fibula after being hit by a comebacker off the bat of Chicago's Jose Abreu on Aug. 11, made three appearances for Cleveland after being activated. The righty showed no ill effects from the injury, allowing two runs in 9 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts in his bid to rejoin the rotation for the ALDS.
"It was fun watching him come out of the bullpen and kind of pitch like a reliever," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "First pitch of the game, curveball. So, it's fun. It shows how versatile he is, and I'm looking forward the postseason. Whether he starts or he's in the bullpen, he's going to help us a lot."
In discussing the best-of-five ALDS plans this weekend, Francona has noted that the Indians may want to "maximize their pitching staff against the Astros." That could mean that Bauer or starter Mike Clevinger are deemed available for Game 1 or Game 2 before potentially returning to start for Game 4 (if necessary on Oct. 9), with the other starting Game 3 (Oct. 8). Both pitchers have expressed a willingness to accept any role assigned to them.
"Whatever's best for the team," Bauer said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Lindor goes deep: Royals left-hander Eric Skoglund sent a 1-0 two-seamer low in the strike zone in the third inning to Lindor, who sent the pitch 110.4 mph out to left field for a leadoff shot in the third inning. The blast was the 38th of the season for the Indians' shortstop, who has 29 homers off righties compared to nine against lefties this season. The home run gave the Tribe a 2-1 advantage.
"Whatever we did in the regular season, nobody cares," Lindor said. "It doesn't matter. Whatever we did in the past is in the past. Now, we're focused on enjoying the plane ride today, enjoying the next couple days and then focus on Houston."
Stealing a run: In the first inning, Lindor reached safely on a dribbler up the first-base line, which Skoglund was unable to field cleanly. The Indians shortstop then stole second and third base. On the second steal (No. 25 on the year for Lindor), Royals third baseman Alcides Escobar could not corral the throw from catcher Salvador Perez. That led to an error that allowed Lindor to trot home for the Tribe's first run of the game.
"When he plays with that energy like that, it's infectious for our whole team," Francona said. "We remind him of that all the time, because so often, as he goes, we go. That's a good thing."
Lindor's 129 runs scored move him into the Indians' single-season Top 10 for that category. Earl Averill holds the record with 140 runs in 1931, followed by Roberto Alomar (138 in '99), Tris Speaker (137 in '20), Averill (136 in '36), Grady Sizemore (134 in 2006), Speaker (133 in '23), Kenny Lofton (132 in '96), Manny Ramirez (131 in '99), Charlie Jamieson (130 in '23) and Lindor.
Lindor joins Alfonso Soriano (2002), Larry Walker (1997) and Ellis Burks (1996) as the only players in MLB history to have at least 25 steals, 35 homers, 40 doubles and 125 runs in a single season.
HE SAID IT
"I've been saying it for a couple years now: He's been one of the most exciting young players in the game. For him to be able to continue to evolve as a player, continue to get better and do it on a day-to-day basis, it's pretty special. He affects the game at every level: defense, offense, on the bases. That's what you see with great players, and that's what he does." -- Donaldson, on Lindor
The Indians will have four days off before heading to Houston for Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Astros on Friday (game time to be announced) at Minute Maid Park. Kluber (20-7, 2.89 ERA) is slated to start in Game 1. The Astros have not announced their starter, but veteran Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA) appears lined up for that day. In his career, Kluber has gone 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA in eight postseason starts.
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 Facebook.