Friday, July 1, 2016

Area '51: Tribe's streak ties club record

 It has been 65 years since Cleveland has experienced something like this.
Powered by an electric 14-strikeout performance from Carlos Carrasco, the Indians pulled off a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Thursday night at Rogers Centre, matching a franchise record with 13 wins in a row. Cleveland also won a baker's dozen in 1951, and in 1942 before that. One more win and this Tribe team will be in uncharted waters.
"It's something pretty special that's going on right now," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "But you've also got to remember that just because we're winning ballgames right now doesn't mean it's going to be easy the next day. We know we've got our hands full for the rest of this series. That's a good club over there."
Cleveland's current run marks the longest winning streak in the American League since the 2002 A's of "Moneyball" fame rattled off 20 in a row, setting a league record. The Indians' 13-game run is the longest for any team since the 2013 Braves' 14-game streak.
Carrasco paved the way to the win column again by spinning 7 1/3 innings, in which he scattered three hits, walked two and fell one strikeout shy of tying a personal best. His lone setback came in the fourth, when reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson drilled a pitch to deep center for a home run.
"This feels great," Carrasco said. "We're playing really hard and we need to continue that. We're trying not to worry about that. It's just keep playing hard. Everything's coming together."
Cleveland's rotation is now 10-0 with a 1.86 ERA during the 13-game streak.
"We've said all along, from Spring Training, that we wanted to rely on our pitching," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They have really done a great job."
Rajai Davis and Jason Kipnis helped Carrasco's cause with a solo home run against Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who gave Toronto a solid start. The righty was charged with three runs on eight hits, including an RBI single to Jose Ramirez in the sixth. Dickey struck out four and walked one in the loss, dropping his record to 0-6 at home.
"I think it's coincidental to be honest with you," Dickey said about his home record. "I remember last year it was kind of the same and then I went eight or nine and one [to end the year.] If I keep pitching well it's going to turn. I've just got to keep doing my part."
Attacking the first pitch: Five of the 19 home runs Dickey has allowed this season have come on the first pitch. Both Davis (second inning) and Kipnis (third) ambushed the first pitch they received for their home runs. Davis crushed one off Dickey's signature knucklers, while Kipnis belted a fastball.
"These guys are the best hitters in the world and if they see a ball that they think they can hit they have a license to swing," Dickey said. "That's part of them being very professional with their at-bats. They had a plan, they tried to execute it. I had some first pitch outs, they ran into some first-pitch hits. It's the game. It's a chess match out there sometimes and they did a good job. They had a good plan." More >
Making it happen: Donaldson was once again a force on both sides of the field, ending an early Cleveland rally with a sliding catch in the first, before putting the Blue Jays on the board with a long home run in the fourth. According to Statcast™, Donaldson's 19th home run traveled 422 feet to straightaway centre field, landing in the second deck.
Critical K: Following his mammoth blast in the fourth, Donaldson had a chance to deliver again in a key spot for the Blue Jays. With two outs and a runner on second in the sixth, Donaldson stepped in against Carrasco with Cleveland holding a 3-1 lead. The big right-hander fired an 88-mph curveball on a 1-2 count, freezing Donaldson for an inning-ending strikeout, eliciting groans from the home crowd.
"That was tremendous," Indians catcher Chris Gimenez said. "[Carrasco] showed a lot by really attacking him early on in the count, and then being able to snap a curveball off on him. … In that situation, that's a big, big out right there. We've got to make sure we're on the same page right there. For him to be able to drop that on him after what happened in the at-bat before, it was pretty impressive."
Carrasco's six-pack: Between the sixth and eighth innings, Carrasco registered six consecutive strikeouts. Eight of the right-hander's 14 strikeouts came via his signature split-changeup. Carrasco's career high of 15 strikeouts came on Sept. 25 last year against the Royals.
"It was Carrasco's night. He was on. He's always been one of the better pitchers in the league when he's healthy and he just had everything going and really just shut us down. Tip your hat to him, he was that good. " -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, on Carrasco
"It looks like a split, really. Essentially, it's got a little bit of a tumble feel to it. It looks like a two-seam fastball right down the middle and it drops down out of the zone. It's a very, very difficult pitch to lay off. Thankfully for tonight, we got them to swing at a few." -- Gimenez, on Carrasco's changeup
Francona put Davis -- typically a No. 1 or No. 9 hitter -- in the lineup's sixth spot partly due to his success against Dickey. The Indians left fielder headed into the night 5-for-11 against the knuckleballer, and then added a home run off Dickey on Thursday.
The Blue Jays struck out 14 times against a visiting pitcher for just the fifth time in franchise history, while Toronto's 17 total strikeouts on the night are the most since striking out 17 times against the Rangers on July 18, 2014.
Indians: Cleveland will send righty Josh Tomlin (9-1, 3.32 ERA) to the mound for Friday's 1:07 p.m. ET clash with the Blue Jays. Tomlin will look to continue to perform the way he did for the Indians in June, when the starter went 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA and 19 strikeouts against two walks in five outings (34 2/3 innings).
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marcus Stroman (6-4, 5.33) gets the ball for the always sold-out Canada Day game at Rogers Centre and second game of Toronto's four-game set against the Indians. Stroman has struggled in his last eight starts, going 2-4 with a 7.54 ERA while allowing six runs or more in four of those eight starts.

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