Carlos Cararsco looked pretty good coming off the disabled list on Friday night. He gave up a few long home runs, but he got into the sixth and struck out seven batters. He hit 95 on the gun. The Indians won. All of these are good things because it’s good when Carrasco is good, and he hasn’t been all that good this year. In that game though, he had a very… interesting third inning. An inning that needs attention.
Remember, this is a pitcher with a very above-average fastball. At 93.2 miles per hour, it’s the second hardest average fastball thrown by a Tribe starter and 27th hardest among all starters. Keeping that in mind, his third inning was very strange, even considering the general strength of his arsenal. Carrasco had given up a pair of home runs in the first two innings, one on a fastball up in the zone to the leadoff hitter Dustin Fowler and another on a four-seam on a 3-1 count to Matt Olson. The A’s were jumping on the fastball, and Carrasco caught on pretty quickly.
Leading off the third Carrasco faced Jonathan Lucroy, a name many Indians fans know well and chuckle about what could have been, but happily was not. He actually showed Lucroy a fastball, but from then was just rude with the off-speed and breaking balls:
The final pitch of the at-bat was the one down and away, a swinging strikeout. Lucroy hadn’t seen Carrasco yet, and yet he was chasing after changeups and curves. Plainly, the scouting report on the Indians hurler was fastballs this night. But the A’s had played their hand a bit too early, and Carrasco flipped the script.
Next came Dustin Fowler, who’d clubbed a Carrasco fastball into the right field bleachers earlier. Cookie wasn’t about to get caught out again, and simply didn’t show Fowler a single straight pitch:
Admittedly you don’t want to throw a curve way up in the zone like that, especially when the guy has already homered off you. But Fowler was taking all the way, and was already finished from there. A change he watched and a curve he chased, and the at-bat was over. Adjustments are the name of the game, a game Fowler lost.
Finally (spoiler alert, Carrasco struck out the side) came Mark Canha. And quickly, Mark Canha headed back to the dugout.
Three curves, only one offered at and chased in the opposing batter’s box, and the at-bat and inning were both over. Carrasco looked incredible in the third and relied on everything but the hard stuff to do it. Usually this isn’t what you expect out of a pitcher coming back from injury. Usually they lean harder than usual on the four-seam because they’re trying to get back into the swing of things. Especially when the injury was arm related you usually don’t think they’re going to be twisting and contorting it to get good break. And yet, here we were Friday night. After a few blips he was pretty dominant as he fed the A’s filth and garbage.
In fact, there was a span from the second ot the fourth, covering eleven batters following the homer by Olson that saw Carrasco throw only twelve fastballs. He doesn’t exactly lean on the pitch in general, only throwing it 45.8 percent of the time this year, and has been backing off on it every year he’s been a starter. Even so, only twelve of his forty total pitches in those in nearly three innings’ work seems a bit amazing. And only one in an entire inning, that a poorly pitched ball that was basically a waste, seems wild.
Maybe it’s a harbinger of a shift, that he sees the success Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber have had in leaning on the curve more and is starting to ignore that mercurial slider of his in favor of pitches he trusts. It was obvious the A’s were chasing the fastball, so he was being smart about things too. That’s encouraging in its own right. He’s always had good curveball, he’s just always had a good fastball and change and a pretty good slider too. It’s neat to see a guy that can switch it up like this. Maybe next time it’ll be all changeups. that’d be a weird one.