CLEVELAND (AP) — Carlos Carrasco has gone from the starting rotation to the bullpen to back to being a starter again. He’d like to keep it that way.
“That’s my job,” he said. “I just want to stay there.”
Carrasco improved his job security by shutting out AL East-leading Baltimore on three hits over seven innings, lifting the Cleveland Indians to a 6-0 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night.
Carlos Santana hit a three-run homer in the first off Ubaldo Jimenez (4-9) and Michael Brantley added a two-run shot in the fifth as the hot-and-cold Indians won for the fifth time in six games. Jimenez, who pitched the Indians to the postseason in 2013, lost to his former teammates for the second time this season.
Carrasco (5-4) got two inning-ending double plays to avoid early trouble and then retired 15 straight after giving up a leadoff double in the third. It’s the second straight strong outing for Carrasco, who won for the first time in 17 decisions — since June 29, 2011 — in his last start at New York.
“I think he’s better equipped to pitch,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think he feels good about himself. I think being out in the bullpen helped him a lot. It let him settle in and get his confidence and kind of understand who he is. It’s a big lift for us.”
The Orioles have lost consecutive games for the first time since June 28-29.
Inconsistent starting pitching has been a problem for the Indians all season, and Francona has been waiting for someone to step up.
Carrasco could be the guy. The right-hander, who went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in his first four starts, hasn’t allowed a run or walk in 12 consecutive innings.
Carrasco has always had electric stuff and the Indians have held out hope he would figure things out. Pitching exclusively out of the stretch, he threw five shutout innings against the Yankees last week, and if he continues to pitch the way he has lately, he’ll hang onto his starting job for a while.
“We talked about him wanting a spot in the rotation this spring,” Francona said, “and now he has gone out and earned it by what he’s done. That should be really rewarding for him because he deserves it.”
Cleveland’s unreliable defense — the Indians lead the majors in errors — turned double plays to end the first and second innings behind Carrasco. In the ninth, right fielder Chris Dickerson ran down Steve Pearce’s shot to the track, preserving the shutout.
Santana staked Carrasco to a 3-0 lead in the first with his 21st homer, a 422-foot shot to center.
Jimenez came in leading the AL in walks, and he put Michael Bourn and Jose Ramirez on to start the inning. One out and a passed ball later, Santana made his former batterymate pay with a towering blast into the shrubs behind the center-field wall.
“He didn’t get off to a good start,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Jimenez. “He walked the first two guys and the next thing you know we’re down 3-0.”
Brantley’s 18th homer capped a three-run fifth to make it 6-0.
Not wanting to take any chances with ace Corey Kluber, the Indians will push his next start back to Thursday at Minnesota. Kluber has been the AL’s most dominant pitcher for two months.
SANTANA’S SHOT: His homer was the 92nd of his career, tying him with former Indians All-Star catcher Sandy Alomar for 28th on the team’s career list.
Orioles: CF Adam Jones played despite soreness in his right hand, which was hit Friday night when he tried to get down a bunt.
Indians: Bourn returned to center field and the leadoff spot after being sidelined since July 6 with a troublesome hamstring. He went 0 for 2 with a walk, sacrifice and scored once.
Orioles RHP Kevin Gausman, 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA in five starts, will try to salvage the series finale. For the Indians, enigmatic RHP Danny Salazar will be recalled from the minors to make his 13th start. The hard thrower began the season in Cleveland’s rotation.
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