Although he faltered in the rotation early in the season, Carlos Carrasco has been one of MLB's best starters since the Cleveland Indians gave him a second chance.
A night after the Indians were eliminated from the playoff race, Carrasco looks to limit an opponent to one run or less for the eighth time in 10 starts Saturday against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.Carrasco was moved to the bullpen in late April after going 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in his first four starts. He was much better as a reliever, going 3-1 with one save and a 2.30 mark in 26 appearances.The 27-year-old eventually was granted another opportunity in the rotation in early August when struggling Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister were sent to Triple-A and Josh Tomlin was moved to the bullpen.Though the move appeared to be temporary, Carrasco (8-6, 2.64 ERA) has extended his stay by going 5-2 with a 1.32 ERA in his last nine starts. He also owns a 0.80 WHIP and .183 opponents' batting average with 68 strikeouts and eight walks in 61 1/3 innings over that span.Only Tampa Bay's Drew Smyly (1.28) and San Francisco's Jake Peavy (1.31) have better ERAs since Aug. 10."He's been unbelievable," infielder Mike Aviles told MLB's official website.Cleveland set a major league record for strikeouts in one season when Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber fanned Tampa Bay's David DeJesus in the eighth inning of Friday's 1-0 win for the Indians' 1,429th this year."That says we've got pitchers on this staff with good stuff," Kluber said. "That record speaks volumes for our staff."The Indians (84-76) fell short in their bid to reach back-to-back postseasons for the first time since a five-year run from 1995-99 when Oakland won at Texas.Carrasco still has a chance to cap his breakout season in strong fashion after he allowed two runs with nine strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings in Monday's 2-0 home loss to Kansas City.He's gone 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two career starts against the Rays and held them scoreless in 1 2/3 innings of relief in a 7-1 road loss May 10.Evan Longoria has had the most success when facing Carrasco, going 2 for 6 with a home run. He's also 6 for 15 versus Cleveland this season after finishing with one of the team's five hits Friday.The Rays (76-84), who have ensured their first losing season since 2007, have scored four times over a three-game losing streak. Tampa Bay, averaging an AL-low 3.82 runs, hasn't lost four straight since Aug. 16-20."Just unfortunate, man, that just happened way too many times this year," manager Joe Maddon said of his club's lack of offense.Alex Colome (1-0, 3.63) pitched well in two previous starts in late June and early September, allowing one run and eight hits over 12 1/3 innings.The right-hander didn't fare as well Sunday, giving up four runs in one inning of relief in a 10-5 home loss to the Chicago White Sox.Cleveland has totaled eight runs while hitting .183 over its last four games. Shortstop Jose Ramirez hit a first-inning solo shot to account for the only run Friday.