CLEVELAND – There are times when Progressive Field plays small, especially on a 78-degree day with 13-mph winds blowing out to right field.
Six home runs could attest to that on Monday afternoon.
The Indians notched three of those long balls behind a quality start from Carlos Carrasco to beat the Athletics, 5-3.
Manager Terry Francona and company moved to 11-2 against the AL West and now have 14 consecutive contests with at least one home run, their longest stretch since 2007.
Jackson keeps hitting terror alive; offense erupts
After going 2-for-3 with three RBIs on Sunday, Austin Jackson maintained his premier form and launched a solo home run in the third, an opposite-field shot to pull ahead, 1-0.
“Austin’s been here for three days and he’s staying in the middle of the field so well,” said Francona. “When hitters do that, they generally cover more pitches. Whether it’s a sacrifice fly to deep right-center or a home run today, but his swings have been pretty consistent just because he’s staying in the middle of the field so well.”
The solo home run came back to bite starter Daniel Mengden as Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion went yard in consecutive fashion in the fourth.
“Yeah, if we could get those guys hot at the same time,” Francona said. “We talk so much about putting up a crooked number. It was four (runs), but those things are good.”
Encarnacion’s bomb traveled a whopping 451 feet to dead center field…
“It feels good,” said Encarnacion. “It’s something that our team needs. They need to know that we’re doing our work and that we can do that work that’s necessary to help us win a game.”
The club’s big free agent acquisition is now riding an eight-game hitting streak with a .355 batting average (11-for-31), two doubles, three home runs and five RBIs.
“I just keep working,” Encarnacion said. “We’re confident in ourselves and our team. We know that we can do it. We’re going to do what we need to to keep it going.”
Scoring came often in the inning as Yan Gomes singled in a run and Jackson recorded a sac fly to take a 5-1 lead, more than enough support for Carrasco.
“I thought we did some good things early,” said Francona. “When you’re starting to score and you have runners on, you can start to be a little more aggressive.”
Carrasco limits traffic
Baserunners were held to a minimum as Carrasco set down 17 of the 23 hitters he faced with only two singles, one walk, one hit by pitch and a pair of solo home runs charged to his ledger.
“I thought he was very good,” Francona said. “Very good breaking ball, used it when he was supposed to. I thought he did a really good job. (He) got the double play ball when he needed it.”
Carrasco threw 29 of his 50 four-seam fastball for strikes (58%) at a usage rate of 49.5% – proving his ability to throw strikes with the bread-and-butter offering.
As the outing progressed, the command of the pitch wavered as both Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healy took advantage of location mistakes out over the middle of the plate for two home runs to the bleachers in the left field (see chart below).
“He fell behind a couple hitters and kind of laid a fastball in there and they hit the two solos,” said Francona. “But other than that, I thought he was really good.”
The 30-year-old right-hander finished with a final line of 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R/ER, 1 BB, 7 K (101 pitches, 69 strikes, 68.3%, six groundouts, five flyouts).
“I think it was the fastball command,” Carrasco said in regards to the control of his four-seam fastball. “Those guys were a little bit aggressive, so we started with sliders to a couple of guys, and I’m glad my slider worked today.”
Andrew Miller struck out all three hitters he faced and Cody Allen worked past Khris Davis’ solo home run to earn the hold and save respectively.
“[Cody’s] one of the best in the game,” said Francona. “Before the home run, he threw a great breaking ball. Probably this far off the plate. Sometimes those things happen. He’s okay.”
Central Division update
The White Sox (24-26) edged past the Red Sox and the Twins (26-21) fell victim to an 11-run eighth inning and lost to the Astros.
Game 2 is set for Tuesday at 6:10 p.m. ET from Progressive Field.
RHP Trevor Bauer (4-4, 6.30) has a chance to allow three or fewer runs for the fourth consecutive start after taking the no-decision last Wednesday vs. Cincinnati.
RHP Sonny Gray (2-1, 3.34) will look to continue his hot streak over his last three outings as he features a 2-0 record, 2.84 ERA and .179 opposing batting average during that span.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.