Carmona, Indians blank Twins 2-0
Using a wicked changeup to go with his sinful sinker, Carmona pitched a three-hitter for his first shutout in more than two years, slowing Minnesota’s September surge and leading the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 win over the AL Central-leading Twins on Friday night.
Carmona (12-14) had lost his last six decisions, falling 1-0 in a complete-game start against Seattle on Sept. 3. This time he came out on top, dominating the Twins, who just completed an 8-1 homestand and lost for only the second time in nine games this month.
Carmona retired the final 16 batters, striking out four of the last six. It was his third career shutout and first since blanking Toronto on May 12, 2008.
“Fausto was filthy,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He had that good sinker, but the difference maker for him has been that changeup. They kept beating that sinker into the ground. He was fantastic.”
On the advice of Cleveland coaches Tim Belcher and Scott Radinsky, Carmona slightly altered his grip three starts ago to take some velocity off his changeup. He was throwing the pitch too hard, and teams were sitting back and hitting it like it was a fastball.
The Twins flailed helplessly at it.
“We got stuffed by Carmona,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He dominated us. We didn’t do too much against him. He ate us up. That’s all you can say, the guy ate us up tonight.”
Carmona completed the job in 1 hour, 57 minutes—the second-fastest game in Progressive Field history and fourth fastest in the majors this season.
Minnesota entered the weekend with a six-game lead over Chicago. The White Sox are hosting Kansas City for three games before the Twins come to Chicago for three next week.
Matt LaPorta(notes) homered in the second inning off Carl Pavano(notes) (16-11), who allowed just two runs and six hits but lost for the fourth time in five starts. The right-hander has been bothered by a stiff neck, and it was so bad in the morning that he visited a chiropractor.
“Usually I get it the day after a start or between a start,” said Pavano, with ice wraps strapped to his shoulder and neck. “It was a battle. I knew I was going to pitch, but I knew I didn’t feel good. What are you going to do? You get through it. It’s a long year.
“I know I didn’t have my best stuff. We got out-pitched for sure.”
The Twins came in as the league’s hottest team—and baseball’s best since the All-Star break. Minnesota had increased its division lead by three games already this week, but Carmona and the cellar-dwelling Indians cooled them down on a crisp, late-summer night.
Carmona didn’t overpower Minnesota’s lineup, but he had the Twins guessing and over-swinging at his pitches. He walked one, struck out seven and got inning-ending double plays to end the third and fourth.
The right-hander continued his comeback season after going 5-12 and being sent down to the lowest level of the minor leagues last year.
He worked hard on his conditioning during the offseason and Carmona sharpened his mental game in sessions with Cleveland’s psychological staff. He’s beginning to look more like the 19-game winner who broke onto the scene in 2007.
“He accomplished it,” Acta said, pointing toward Cleveland’s clubhouse, where Carmona was getting dressed. “I’m proud of him. He pitched in winter ball, worked on what he had to work on. He bought into everything we were trying to sell to him.”
The Twins never put two runners on at the same time in any inning off Carmona, and only got one to third when Denard Span(notes) tripled after a double play in the third. Orlando Hudson(notes) then lined out to third to end Minnesota’s best scoring threat.
“He had a great sinker, a great changeup, a great slider,” Gardenhire said. “The ball was diving all over the place. The ball was just disappearing.”
The Twins were without designated hitter Jim Thome(notes), who sat out for the second straight game with a mild abdominal strain. The former Indians slugger has been on a home run tear and is tied with Frank Robinson for eighth place on the career homers list with 586.
NOTES: Carmona has pitched in two of the four fastest games this season. He opposed Detroit’s Armando Galarraga(notes) in the infamous near-perfect game that lasted only 1:44 on June 2. … Gardenhire expects Thome to be in Saturday’s lineup. Among his many career achievements is the longest homer in Progressive Field history. He hit a 511-footer in 1999 off Kansas City’s Don Wengert when the ballpark was still called Jacobs Field. … Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who is being treated for leukemia, watched the game from the 91-year-old’s usual press box seat. … Twins reliever Brian Fuentes(notes) underwent an MRI for his sore back on Wednesday. He is scheduled to pitch a bullpen session Saturday.