CHICAGO -- One of the best stories of this season for the Indians has been one of the most unexpected. Following a disastrous start to the season, right-hander Carlos Carrasco appeared banished to the bullpen.
Carrasco got a second chance and has seized his opportunity in overpowering fashion.
On Thursday night, Carrasco continued his comeback tale in Chicago, where he worked into the seventh to lead the Tribe to a 3-2 victory over the White Sox. The pitcher's performance overcame another round of low run support, sealed a series win over the South Siders and helped Cleveland collect its 11th win in 16 games.
"It's miraculous, man," Indians center fielder Michael Bourn said of Carrasco's recent showing. "I've always thought he has great stuff. I've seen him since he's 19. We came up in the Phillies organization almost together. So, I've been seeing him for a long time.
"People don't understand, when you play at this level, it takes more than one year or two years to get adjusted to it."
Led by Corey Kluber, Cleveland's starting pitching has played an integral role in keeping the club afloat in the American League playoff hunt over the past few weeks. Since being pulled back out of the bullpen on Aug. 10, Carrasco has stepped up, impressed and given the Tribe another formidable option every five days.
The victory helped the third-place Indians pull within 5 1/2 games of the American League Central-leading Royals. In the chase for the AL's second Wild Card, Cleveland currently faces a four-game deficit behind the Mariners and Tigers. The Tribe's next stop happens to be Kansas City, where the division foes will engage in a three-game set.
"Every game is so important," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "and every series."
Against the White Sox, Carrasco threw 71 percent strikes (73 of 103 pitches) and ended the evening with seven strikeouts against just one walk in his 6 2/3 innings. The big right-hander relinquished the lone run in the third, when Chicago slugger Jose Abreu flicked a pitch outside the strike zone into left-center field for an RBI single, pulling the game into a 1-1 tie.
"We're finding out the hard way," Francona said, "that with two strikes, you can't expand the plate too much with Abreu. He can reach just about anything. That's been a thorn in our side, and probably the rest of the league, too. That's the only run [Carrasco] gave up."
Abreu has done damage against plenty of pitchers this season, but Carrasco carried on unfazed by the momentary setback.
Since rejoining Cleveland's rotation, all Carrasco has done is turn in a perfect 3-0 record to go along with a pristine 0.73 ERA. The righty has registered 69 percent of his pitches for strikes, turned in a 0.57 WHIP, limited batters to a .131 average and piled up 24 strikeouts against only three walks in 24 2/3 innings.
In the first inning, Carrasco came out firing, hitting as high as 99 mph on the radar gun.
"I feel good about myself," Carrasco said. "It's something I learned in the bullpen: attack. That's what pitching's about."
Carrasco has provided the best-case scenario in terms of what Cleveland felt he could do when he began the season in the Opening Day rotation. After four rough outings -- during which he went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA -- Carrasco was sent to the bullpen, where he established a routine and settled in nicely as a long reliever.
Dating back to Carrasco's move to the relief corps, including his recent four-start stretch, the pitcher has turned in a 1.73 ERA to go along with a 0.84 WHIP and .187 opponents' average. His final two relief appearances included 21 and 59 pitches, respectively, preparing him for a transition to starting again.
The move has paid off in a big way for the Indians.
"He continues to do it," Francona said. "He came out, he established his fastball, he held it. Especially when he kind of saw the end coming, he reached back for a little more. He had a good touch on his breaking ball and his changeup."
Cleveland's offense was not able to do much against White Sox lefty John Danks, who lasted six innings en route to a loss. In the first inning, Bourn led off with one of his two triples on the night and then scored on a groundout to short off the bat of Jose Ramirez. Jason Kipnis added an RBI single in the sixth and Michael Brantley did the same in the seventh, giving Carrasco just enough support.
After Carrasco bowed out of the ballgame, Chicago tried to rally against Cleveland's bullpen. With two outs and runners on first and second in the eighth -- one baserunner came courtesy of a fielding error by third baseman Mike Aviles -- closer Cody Allen surrendered an RBI single to Adam Dunn to help the White Sox pull within one run.
Allen halted Chicago's comeback by striking out Avisail Garcia to end the eighth and then struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his 18th save.
"We're getting really good pitching right now," Bourn said. "We feel really confident that, if we can scrap some runs across, they're going to hold the fort down for us. That's a good thing to have."