CLEVELAND – The Twins took their annual team picture at Target Field last week. For accuracy's sake, they should Photoshop Carlos Carrasco in there somewhere.
The Indians righthander, who has started more Twins games in 2018 — a record-tying six, three in August alone — than seven actual Twins starters, used familiarity to breed zeros Tuesday, holding the Twins scoreless during his 7⅔ innings and handing them their fourth consecutive loss, 8-1 at Progressive Field.
"How many [Carrasco starts] has it been? Feels like a lot," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "When you see a guy multiple times, you build up résumés and knowledge, hopefully. But the good pitchers make adjustments."
He might be adjusting, but the results are the same: Tuesday was the third time this year that Carrasco pitched seven or more innings against the Twins and didn't give up a run. In those three starts, in fact, totaling 22 innings, he's allowed only one Twin to even reach third base.
This time, the 31-year-old Venezuelan gave up a single to Joe Mauer in the first inning, a double to Mauer in the third and a pair of meaningless singles after that. The sum total of the Twins' offense against him: Four hits, two walks, and zero baserunners advancing even a single base.
No wonder Carrasco left to a loud standing ovation from the 19,194 in the house with two outs in the eighth inning.
"He was sharp. The game looks flat when you don't swing the bats particularly well, and you're striking out," Molitor said. "His fastball was good, and we all know his slider/changeup combination is tough, especially to those righties."
The Twins did manage to avoid being shut out for the seventh time this season, when Jake Cave connected off Dan Otero in the ninth inning, lining his seventh home run of the season into the fifth row in right field.
Kyle Gibson has to fight the same see-you-next-week battle as Carrasco, and Tuesday's start was the fifth he's made against the Indians this year. His numbers look bad — five runs in only 5⅓ innings — but they didn't reflect the way he pitched. Only one of the 27 batters he faced put the ball in the air; 20 hit the ball on the ground. But eight of those grounders got through for singles, four turned into runs, and though he forced six potential double-play balls, none resulted in two outs.
All of which left him shrugging over his worst (statistically) start of the five.
"That was about as good as I've felt in a long time, really," Gibson said. "Eleven ground-ball outs, one fly ball. No extra-base hits to a team that's pretty good. Unfortunately, man, sometimes they just don't hit the grounders at a [fielder], or hit it hard enough [to turn two]. That's going to happen sometimes."
The Twins' defense didn't always help. Third baseman Miguel Sano — forced, because of an extreme shift, to make the pivot at second base on a potential double play — threw the ball wide of first base for an error that extended one inning.
"We cost [Gibson] some pitches by not making some plays early, both on the double-play opportunity and the missed relay. Those are costly when your pitcher has to burn pitches," Molitor said. "The way [Carrasco] was pitching, I don't know how much difference it would have made. … They pretty much outplayed us. Their starter was a little better, their defense was a little better and they swung the bats better."