Carmona stays stellar in the sunshine
Hafner, Garko homer as Indians take series from Royals
CLEVELAND -- If the sun is shining, so likely is Fausto Carmona.
As clear skies hung over Jacobs Field on Sunday afternoon, Carmona continued his daylight dominance in the Tribe's 5-3 victory over the Royals.
Of course, as the Indians won for the 10th time in their last 12 games at The Jake, nobody would give the early start any credit for the victory.
So the numbers must do the speaking. Carmona allowed two runs on eight hits over seven innings, and get this: the effort raised his daytime ERA.
The 23-year-old right-hander is now 8-0 with a 1.98 ERA in nine afternoon starts this year. Compare that to his 6.00 ERA and 3-4 record in nine starts under the lights, and the split is staggering.
Manager Eric Wedge believes it's simply a statistical oddity.
"There are certain stats throughout the course of the year that probably won't be patterns over the course of a year or over the course of three to five years," Wedge said. "You can't explain everything in this game. And I think that's part of it."
Come on, though. There must be something. Maybe that devastating mid-90s sinker of his plays better in the day. Or perhaps Carmona feels more relaxed in the sunlight hours.
No and no, Carmona says. Over the din of a Backstreet Boys CD mysteriously blaring from the clubhouse's speakers, Carmona downplayed any theories.
"I feel comfortable in day games, but I don't feel any different at night," Carmona said through a translator, first-base coach Luis Isaac. "It's just happened that way."
Wait, maybe his catcher knows.
"You're asking the wrong guy," Victor Martinez said. "I don't know."
Whatever it is, Carmona was at it again Sunday. He wasn't perfect, allowing a baserunner in each of his first five innings before breezing through his final two innings, but he masterfully evaded trouble.
When the game's leadoff man, David DeJesus, reached on an error, Carmona simply induced a double play from the next hitter. When Ross Gload and Alex Gordon led off the second with a walk and a hit, Carmona consecutively induced a weak pop fly and a pair of grounders to end the inning. Even when five straight Royals reached base in the fifth inning, Carmona only gave up a pair of runs.
Mixing in as many sliders and changeups as his sinker, Carmona was solid for a third straight outing. And since a brief rough stretch in June, Carmona looks to be back to form, going 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA over his last three starts.
"I'm very confident now," Carmona said. "I feel I can pitch this way for the rest of the season."
As for the boys behind Carmona, they gave him plenty. And it started with Travis Hafner's two-run shot into the right-field mezzanine known as Pronkville.
Hafner's 3-for-4 showing was just type of performance his teammates expect will come more frequently now that Pronk's contract hassle is over.
Hafner, though, would never openly agree with that. Heck, he's just happy to hit his fifth homer since May. Particularly with Trot Nixon threatening to slap his name across Pronkville.
"Trot said to me that pretty soon, if I didn't hit one up there, they would name it Nixonville," Hafner said with a laugh.
Ryan Garko added a solo homer into the left-field bleachers in the fourth and the Tribe piled on with a pair of runs in the sixth.
The way Carmona pitched, though, it mattered little.
Then again, combine Carmona and the sunlight and it rarely will.
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.