Miscues sink Guardians despite Carrasco’s ‘outstanding’ start

4:13 AM UTC

CHICAGO — It didn’t take long to realize Carlos Carrasco would need to be on his A-game Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

White Sox starter Garrett Crochet was dealing from the moment he stepped on the mound, cutting down Cleveland’s first three hitters in just 10 pitches. In order to keep his team in it, the 37-year-old Carrasco would have to go toe to toe with Chicago’s flamethrowing lefty.

For 4 1/3 innings, he did just that, holding the White Sox in check during what was setting up to be his most efficient outing of the season.

But with the way Crochet was pitching, the Guardians could ill-afford any mistakes while Carrasco was on the bump. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they received in the form of a crucial fifth-inning error from Gabriel Arias and a pair of seventh-inning homers that ultimately sealed their 6-3 loss.

“Cookie was unbelievably outstanding tonight,” manager Stephen Vogt said. “Exactly what we needed, seven great innings. We didn’t help ourselves early in the game, and his only two mistakes came in the seventh. He was great, we just didn’t get enough runs off Crochet.”

Asking Carrasco to match what Crochet brought to the table would’ve been too tall a task for the veteran right-hander. The White Sox starter was consistently blowing gas by Guardians hitters, averaging 97.1 mph on a four-seamer he unleashed 47 times while working his way to a career-high 11 strikeouts with no walks in six scoreless innings.

But what Carrasco could do was utilize an effective five-pitch mix to keep Chicago’s offense off balance. Despite generating only seven whiffs on 46 swings, Carrasco continuously created weak contact from the White Sox, with only six of his 24 batted balls allowed qualifying as hard-hit.

Your browser does not support HTML5 video tag. Click here to view original asset

It was an approach that ensured he was able to match scoreless frames with Crochet even though his pitches didn’t boast the same speed.

“Velocity, it matters a little bit,” Carrasco said, “but if you look at the ball really good and you hit your spot, you’re going to be great. I just went over there and attacked the hitters.”

The righty also maintained an efficiency not seen from some of his earlier outings this season, breezing through four innings on just 42 pitches.

By that point, though, Cleveland had yet to solve Crochet, which required more clean innings from Carrasco. While he did his best to continue inducing weakly-hit balls, a pair of defensive miscues made his job notably more difficult.

After a single from catcher Korey Lee, shortstop Paul DeJong laced a ball to left field that deflected off Will Brennan’s glove and put runners at second and third. Carrasco followed by getting a soft grounder from second baseman Nicky Lopez, but Arias misplayed it while checking on the runners, both of whom scored on the error.

Despite Arias’ gaffe putting Cleveland behind, Carrasco expressed nothing but support to his second baseman.

“In this game, nobody wants to do anything wrong. It happened, and I just went over there and said ‘Hey, we got it, we’ve just got to move on.’ We just go to the next pitch, and that’s pretty much what we did.”

Carrasco followed what eventually became a three-run fifth by retiring the side in order in the following frame. But when the Guardians’ offense threatened to get going after Crochet departed in the top of the seventh, Carrasco opened the bottom half of the inning by allowing back-to-back homers from Lee and DeJong.

True to form, the Guardians still managed to make things interesting when José Ramírez homered for the fourth time in six games to cut the deficit to 5-3. But Andrew Vaughn’s leadoff solo shot in the eighth essentially snuffed out Cleveland’s momentum.

The Guardians remained undeterred afterwards, refusing to let the two-game skid shake their belief in getting things turned around.

Carrasco’s progress represented a big reason why that optimism hadn’t faded from the clubhouse. After opening the year with a slew of uneven outings, the veteran righty has allowed four earned runs over a combined 13 innings pitched in his past two starts.

It’s the kind of development that seemed to serve as quite the silver lining from an otherwise unlucky night.

“You can’t speak enough about the way Cookie threw tonight,” Vogt said. “The last few times out, he’s been outstanding. It just seems like he’s continuing to get better and better. We’re really, really encouraged by Cookie.”