Carmona makes sure Tribe wins this 1-0 duel
CLEVELAND — Step aside C.C. Sabathia. There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Fausto Carmona.
Though Carmona will probably never claim the ace title as long as Sabathia is in town, the 23-year-old right-hander has been every bit a No. 1 starter for the Indians this year.
Carmona’s mastery continued Wednesday night on the biggest of stages, as he shut down the Red Sox and their vaunted lineup, and Franklin Gutierrez clouted a solo home run to give Cleveland a 1-0 decision and its first win of the series in three tries.
“What he’s done this year is about as valuable as anything we’ve had as a ballclub,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, whose team entered the night trailing the first-place Tigers by 1½ games in the Central Division standings.
A night after Sabathia was dealt a hard-luck loss thanks to a quality start from his counterpart — Daisuke Matsuzaka — Cleveland returned the favor, with Carmona offering up one of his best outings of the year to leave Boston starter Josh Beckett with an undeserved defeat.
Carmona, who took a no-hitter one out into the sixth inning, allowed just four hits (two infield singles) and struck out six through eight innings to join Sabathia, Beckett and the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano as the only pitchers in the majors with 13 wins.
He allowed two runners to reach second base, with one of them moving up on a passed ball from catcher Victor Martinez.
That’s ace material if there ever was any.
“I’m not thinking about that,” said Carmona through an interpreter. “I’m just concentrating on pitching the way I have and continuing to do that in every start.”
It’s worked especially well for him this month, where he is 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA in five starts. Carmona hasn’t allowed a run since the fifth inning of his start against the Royals on July 15, covering a span of 18 innings.
Carmona faced down a demon of sorts in the Red Sox, who beat him up in Boston two straight nights last year, with the right-hander blowing saves on each occasion during his disastrous spell as Cleveland’s closer.
The Red Sox hit everything he threw at them last year. This time around, they couldn’t touch him, even with David Ortiz, who hit a memorable three-run, walk-off homer off him in Boston last year, in the lineup for the first time in the four-game series.
“Last year I was trying to be a closer. One bad inning can change the whole game,” Carmona said. “This year as a starter, I have more time to throw and more time to make my pitches work.”
Carmona had to be on top of his game, with Beckett matching him nearly pitch for pitch.
Boston’s most successful pitcher this year lost for the fourth time despite allowing just a run on four hits, while striking out seven through eight innings.
After allowing Gutierrez’s homer to lead off the third, Beckett retired 17 of the final 19 batters he faced, including 14 straight from the last out of the third to the first out of the eighth.
“Fausto was outstanding. Beckett was outstanding,” Wedge said. “It was very similar to (Tuesday) night, where one play was going to make the difference.”
One swing, actually.
Gutierrez located a 1-0 fastball from Beckett and hit a towering drive to left for his sixth homer of the year.
“With that kind of pitcher, you have to look for his best pitch — a fastball,” Gutierrez said. “He threw it, and I got a good swing.”
Defense saved the Indians from allowing the tying run in the sixth.
With former Indian Coco Crisp on second and two out, Ortiz shot a grounder into center that second baseman Josh Barfield gloved on the outfield grass. With no play at first, Barfield turned his attention to Crisp, who broke for home.
Barfield threw to Martinez, who blocked the plate with his foot to cut down Crisp.
The Indians and closer Joe Borowski enjoyed no walk in the park in the ninth, with Ortiz set to bat third and Manny Ramirez to follow.
It never got that far, with Borowski striking out the first two batters he faced — Crisp and Dustin Pedroia — before retiring Ortiz on a pop up to third to end the game.
The victory snapped Boston’s longest winning streak of the season at five games, while the Indians won for the first time in four games. Cleveland won a 1-0 decision after losing by the same count the previous game for the first time since April 17-18 of 1942.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Boston
WHERE: Jacobs Field
(5-7, 5.95 ERA) vs. Gabbard (4-0, 2.97)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Indians catcher Victor Martinez blocks the plate and tags out Boston’s Coco Crisp to protect the Tribe’s slim lead in the sixth inning.