After sweeping a three-game series from the Tigers at Comerica Park, the Indians beat Hurricane Dorian’s arrival in Florida only to be swept by the Rays. Tampa Bay completed a convincing three-game sweep with a 8-2 victory.
The loss dropped the Indians to 5.5 games behind the Twins in the American League Central. The Twins (84-52) beat the Tigers, 8-3, to take their biggest lead over the Indians since they had a six-game lead on July 15.
The Indians (79-58) started the day with a half-game lead over Oakland and the Rays for the home spot in the AL Wild Card Game. The Rays (80-58) knocked them out of the top wild card spot, but they still have a half-game lead over the A’s for the second spot. The A’s (78-58) blew a 4-0 lead late as the Yankees rallied for a 5-4 win on Sunday.
With the exception of Carlos Carrasco returning to the mound for the first time since May 30 after being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, the day and the series belonged to the Rays. As Carrasco threw his warmup pitches before the seventh inning, both teams came out of their dugouts to applaud him, while the crowd of 14,922 gave him a standing ovation.
“I know how our guys feel about Carlos,” said manager Terry Francona. “And I know how Kevin Cash (Rays manager) feels about him. That was a really nice gesture on their part.”
Cash was the Indians bullpen coach when a struggling Carrasco was sent to the bullpen in 2014. Carrasco, with the help of cash and former pitching coach Mickey Callaway, rediscovered himself in the pen and rejoined the rotation in the second half of the season. He’s been there ever since.
The last time Adam Plutko (6-4, 4.53) faced the Rays, he allowed seven runs on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings on May 23. Four of those hits were home runs.
He was better on Sunday, but not good enough to beat Charlie Morton (14-6, 3.06). Plutko allowed four runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings. When he left in the fifth, the Indians were down, 3-1, but things gradually got out of control.
The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the first on Joey Wendle’s two-out single to score Austin Meadows. The Indians made it 1-1 in the second as Jake Bauers delivered Mike Freeman with a double against the team that traded him to Cleveland in December.
Bauers, in fact, delivered both of the Tribe’s runs.
Nate Lowe gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead with a two-run, two-out homer off Plutko in the fourth. The Rays pushed the lead to 4-1 in the fifth on a pinch-hit double by Travis d’Arnaud. It would have been 5-1, but the Indians challenged a call by plate umpire Dan Iassogna that Tommy Pham scored on the backend of d’Arnaud’s double.
The review took 2:11, but Pham was called out. It was one of the few things that went the Indians’ way on Sunday.
Morton, who had lost three of his last five starts, held the Indians to one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out leadoff hitter Francisco Lindor three straight times. The last time Lindor struck out three times in a game was July 18 against Detroit.
Carrasco replaced James Hoyt, promoted on Sunday when the rosters expanded, to start the seventh. He retired the first two men he faced, Eric Sogard and Meadows, on ground balls. But Pham doubled and scored on d’Arnaud’s single. Carrasco ended the inning by getting Wendle on a grounder to second.
“It was fun to get back out there,” said Carrasco, “and get back to my teammates who have supported me from day one."
Carrasco said he had a lot of things going through his mind before his first pitch to Sogard, a 94 mph fastball.
“I was thinking about striking out people, getting them out,” Carrasco said. “I tried to hold them right there, but I gave up one run. I’m glad I’m healthy and I can pitch and we’ll go from there.”
Carrasco lives in the Tampa area. He said he had 50 family members and friends in the stands.
“This was good because I live down here and I had a lot of family and friends in the stands," said Carrasco. “The Rays and my teammates came out of the dugout, it was great.”
Tampa Bay put the game out of reach with three more runs in the eighth. Dan Otero, activated from the injured list on Sunday just like Carrasco, allowed the three runs.
The Indians were outscored, 21-8, in the sweep. They went 1-6 against the Rays in the season series.
The Indians return home for a brief four-game homestand against the White Sox starting Monday night at 7:10 p.m. Rookie right-hander Aaron Civale (2-3, 1.96) will start for the Tribe, while the White Sox go with left-hander Ross Detwiler (2-4, 5.96). SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.
Mike Clevinger (10-2, 2.72), Shane Bieber (12-7, 3.27) and Zach Plesac (7-5, 3.61) are scheduled to follow Civale. The White Sox will counter with Dylan Cease (3-7, 6.92), Ivan Nova (9-11, 4.48) and Reynaldo Lopez (8-12, 5.41).