CLEVELAND — The Indians are heavily promoting C.C. Sabathia as a candidate for the American League Cy Young Award.
Perhaps it’s time they do the same for Fausto Carmona.
The right-handed flamethrower tossed another masterpiece Saturday night, taking over the A.L. ERA lead with eight scoreless innings in the Tribe’s 6-0 win over the Kansas City Royals.
“All my pitches were working tonight — my fastball, change-up and slider,’’ said Carmona, who improved to 17-8 on the season and lowered his ERA to 3.07. “I was able to get in a groove, and it was good to go three-up, three-down a lot.
“No (awards) matter to me, I just want to win games for the team.’’
The win reduced the Indians’ magic number for clinching a playoff spot to nine and maintained their 5½-game lead over Detroit in the Central Division. The Tigers, who come to town Monday for a three-game series, edged Minnesota 4-3 at the Metrodome.
Talk of the postseason, though, was nowhere to be found in the Tribe clubhouse after the game.
Instead, it was all about Carmona, who allowed just three hits and retired the final 16 batters he faced in a dominant performance.
He also struck out nine without surrendering a walk in joining Sabathia as the only A.L. pitchers with 17 wins and 200 innings.
“It’s safe to say he deserves plenty of (Cy Young) consideration,’’ Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “Fausto is one hell of a competitor and he points his emotions in the right direction. It’s fun to watch him go out there and learn and continue to improve.’’
Carmona’s showing was not only impressive, it was critical, as the Indians were unable to put the game away until they scored four times in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Tribe catcher Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a leadoff double off Ryan Braun, then came around to score on a throwing error by shortstop Jason Smith. Smith’s errant toss hit Ryan Garko on his right middle finger, forcing him to leave the game for precautionary reasons.
Kansas City right fielder Mark Teahen later dropped a fly ball off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez to score pinch runner Josh Barfield. Casey Blake added a two-run single to make it 6-0, prompting Wedge to end Carmona’s night three outs shy of a complete game.
Rafael Perez struck out the side in the ninth to finish Cleveland’s ninth shutout of the season.
“We have a great pitching staff, so you want to keep everyone going,’’ Martinez said. “With a guy like Fausto, sometimes like tonight, his ball moves so much that you really have to concentrate behind the plate. I know it’s tough to hit him.’’
The Indians took a 1-0 lead two batters into the bottom of first on an error by Royals first baseman Ross Gload and a double by Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera’s shot to the right-field wall scored Grady Sizemore.
Travis Hafner added a solo home run in the third — a 382-foot shot to right — to extend the lead to 2-0.
That was all the damage the Tribe managed against Royals starter Zack Greinke (6-6, 3.88 ERA), a former top prospect who went 51/3 innings. He scattered four hits, five walks and four strikeouts, but wound up the hard-luck loser because Saturday was clearly Carmona’s night.
“The great ones step up when the opportunity is there for them,’’ Wedge said. “That’s what you saw out there with Fausto. He keeps his mind in the moment and on what he has to do.’’
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Kansas City
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Laffey (3-1, 5.29 ERA) vs. Buckner (0-1, 5.29)
TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
MAGIC NUMBER: 9