Little was expected of Fausto Carmona after a brutal rookie season in which he went 1-10. Yet without him, the Indians may not be preparing for the postseason as AL Central division champions.
Carmona looks to cap his incredible turnaround season as he opens a doubleheader Wednesday for the Indians against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
Were it not for injuries to Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook, the 24-year-old Carmona (18-8, 3.03 ERA) would have begun the season in Triple-A Buffalo. But the right-hander won six of his first seven decisions in April and May, and never looked back while emerging as a quality No. 2 starter behind staff ace C.C. Sabathia and helping the Indians (93-63) to their first division title since 2001.
Carmona is 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA in four September starts, limiting opponents to five runs and 19 hits in 28 1-3 innings. He stifled the Oakland Athletics on Friday, yielding one run in six innings while striking out seven in a 4-3 win.
“It wasn’t his best game, but he gave them a chance to win,” said first base coach Luis Rivera, who interpreted for Carmona. “He’s pleased guys scored runs for him so he could get the W.”
Despite clinching the title, the Indians are still trying to nail down the best record in the American League and the choice of an extra off day that comes with it. The off day - likely Wednesday - would give Cleveland, currently one-half game ahead of Boston for the best record in the AL, the luxury of pitching Sabathia and Carmona on normal rest in the division series.
“If we can get that format, that could have a benefit to us,” Indians general manager Mark Shapiro told the team’s official Web site.
Carmona’s lone appearance against the Mariners was a forgettable one, as he gave up four ninth-inning runs in relief to take the loss on July 30, 2006.
The Indians maintained their tenuous AL lead with a 4-3, 12-inning victory - their 23rd in the last 29 games - that also mathematically eliminated the Mariners (83-72) from the wild-card chase. Kenny Lofton drove home Asdrubal Cabrera with the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly after Cabrera advanced two bases on an errant pickoff throw by Ryan Rowland-Smith.
“Every game is important to us,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We have to continue to work hard to get guys who need to play to get them sharper for the playoffs and give other guys time off. It’s a fine line but it’s the situation we’re in. We’re doing our best to walk that line.”
Ryan Feierabend (1-5, 7.33) opposes Carmona in the first game of the twinbill, again looking for his first win since June 3. On Thursday, the 22-year-old left-hander made his first start since July 24 and was tagged for five runs and eight hits in just three innings of a 9-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.
It was a step back for Feierabend, who had limited opponents to one run in 9 2-3 innings spanning three previous relief outings. Feierabend is making his first appearance against the Indians.
The Mariners turn to Jarrod Washburn (10-15, 4.36) in the second game. The left-hander - trying to avoid a single-season career high in losses - snapped a five-start losing streak Friday, scattering five hits in seven innings of a 6-0 victory over the Angels for his first win since Aug. 21.
Washburn, though, has lost his last four starts at Safeco, where he is winless since defeating Toronto on June 29. He has struggled against Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner, who is 8-for-20 with three homers lifetime versus Washburn.
Washburn is 7-6 with a 4.71 ERA in 16 lifetime starts versus the Indians.
Jeremy Sowers (1-6, 6.93), called up from Triple-A on Sept. 17, makes his first start since June 19 for the Indians. The left-hander was sent to the minors after a difficult three-start stretch in which he went 0-2 with a 9.22 ERA and allowed five homers in just 13 2-3 innings.
This doubleheader marks the last of the four games needed to be made up after a series scheduled from April 6-9 in Cleveland was snowed out.
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