CLEVELAND — Carlos Carrasco wasn’t at his best and for the majority of the game Indians hitters were at their worst Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field.
It wasn’t difficult to figure out the rest.
Carrasco allowed two home runs in the first four innings and Cleveland went scoreless over the first six as Tampa Bay wrapped up the three-game series with a 6-4 win in front of 26,535 fans.
The Rays opened two of the first four innings with solo homers on the first pitch from Carrasco, who lasted 6 1⁄3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits, while striking out nine.
“On the first one, that was a good pitch down and away, a two-seamer,” Carrasco said of the pitch to Brandon Lowe, who scored the first run of the game in the second with his third homer. “I don’t know how that guy hit that ball. On the other one, for (C.J.) Cron, I think, I’m pretty sure he knew what pitch was coming. He hit that ball pretty easy and pretty hard.”
On the strength of the two long balls, Tampa Bay grabbed the early advantage and never looked back, building a 6-0 lead and chasing Carrasco with a four-run seventh inning.
“The two innings went first-pitch fastball, first-pitch breaking ball — home runs,” manager Terry Francona said. “And then the inning where they scored their four, leadoff walk. And then a couple doubles. … I thought overall he was pretty good. He spins the ball so well that even when he doesn’t have his best fastball he’s still pretty effective.”
Tommy Pham was the last batter Carrasco faced, belting a 3-2 pitch over the head of center fielder Greg Allen for an RBI triple.
Neil Ramirez replaced Carrasco and allowed a two-run double to Lowe before the Indians were finally able to close out the inning.
“I made a couple of mistakes, 3-2 (count), just threw a slider,” Carrasco said. “(I tried) to throw it down and away and maybe get a strikeout, but I just left it right in the middle and he got the triple right there. I think the rest (of the outing) was good, but it is what it is.”
Francona and head trainer James Quinlan went to the mound in the fourth to check on Carrasco, who was taking extra time between pitches and appeared to wince after a pitch to Jake Bauers.
Carrasco remained in the game and said there was no issue.
“He was taking some time in between pitches,” Francona said. “We didn’t see anything. But then Frankie (Lindor) kind of walked to the mound. I didn’t think I saw anything, but I’d hate for him to throw a pitch and something be wrong.”
Something was wrong with Cleveland’s offense over the first six innings. The Indians mustered only one hit off Diego Castillo and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who took over in the second inning and retired 13 of the first 14 batters he faced.
Rays manager Kevin Cash, a former Indians bench coach under Francona, went with his opener approach, using five relievers to limit the Indians to six hits.
“They have a lot of different looks,” Francona said of the Rays’ pitching staff. “They start a power right-hander, go with a lefty that spins the ball and throws a change-up. It’s hard to see. But (Yarbrough) throws a ton of strikes and for the most part kind of kept us off the barrel.
“I just think that what gets challenging is that they have some really good pitching. I think Cashy is doing a really good job with their pitching — the way they use them, the way they bring them in. You can tell he’s having fun with it.”
Cleveland scored its first run in the seventh after Michael Brantley led off with a double and Jose Ramirez followed with an RBI single.
The Indians made things interesting in the ninth inning, scoring three times. Yandy Diaz’s base hit scored one and Melky Cabrera’s two-out double drove in the other two.
Cleveland had the tying run at the plate in Jason Kipnis, who struck out swinging to end the game.
Catcher Eric Haase replaced Roberto Perez behind the plate to make his major league debut in the eighth. He got his first big league at-bat in the bottom of the inning.