Bats, gloves unable to back Carmona
Starter pitches better than results; Wedge laments defense
CLEVELAND -- Fausto Carmona would have been just fine with even half the run support he had in his last start. Nick Blackburn and the Twins made sure that didn't happen.
Blackburn (1-1) retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced, staying undefeated against Cleveland, and Carmona allowed five runs, four earned, as the Indians fell, 5-1, Friday at Progressive Field.
Carmona (1-3) looked good through six, but after letting the first two runners he faced on in the seventh, the Twins plated two more to pad their lead. The righty struck out seven and walked two, giving up eight hits.
"I thought Fausto threw the ball as good, if not better, than any point in time this year," manager Eric Wedge said. "He had great stuff, on the plate for the most part, pitched aggressively, and he put the ball on the ground. He gave us every chance to win the ballgame. I was really pleased with what we saw from Fausto. [He] really has something to work off of."
Carmona said his sinker and changeup were working Friday, and was pleased overall with the performance.
"I think I threw the ball down, got some ground balls," Carmona said. "I tried not to overthrow."
The Indians scored 14 runs in the second inning alone in Carmona's last start, a 22-4 victory over the Yankees, but they couldn't solve Blackburn on Friday.
Blackburn improved to 4-0 with a 1.63 ERA against the Indians.First baseman Ryan Garko knows exactly why Blackburn has done so well against Cleveland.
"He just does a good job of throwing strikes," said Garko, who had one of six Tribe hits off Blackburn. "His sinker was pretty good tonight. He's always had a good cutter and breaking, but tonight, it was his sinker."
Wedge gave Blackburn his due, but he pointed the finger for Friday's offensive struggles right back at his lineup.
"I think we've been missing some pitches," Wedge said. "We've had some pitches to hit that we are missing. We've got to do a better job with two strikes, sticking our nose in there and fighting through at-bats. No reason we shouldn't be a good offensive ballclub."
Cleveland has scored just three runs combined in its last three games.
"They've done a great job, except the last three days they have struggled," Wedge said. "Hopefully we can break out of that here tomorrow."
Meanwhile, defensive issues continue to plague the Tribe.
After Justin Morneau's fourth-inning solo home run had put Minnesota back ahead, Mark DeRosa's throwing error prolonged the inning, allowing Jose Morales to drive in Joe Crede.
Garko, meanwhile, struggled with a hard bases-loaded Morneau grounder in the seventh, allowing another run to score.
"I think I would have gone to the plate with it," Garko said. "It would have been tough to turn [a double play], so I think I would have just gone to the plate."
As good as Blackburn and the Twins' bullpen was, it may not have mattered, but Wedge still doesn't like to give away runs.
"I haven't been particularly pleased with our defense [in the] early going," Wedge said. "The way our starting pitching is coming around, I think our bullpen is catching up a little bit. We've got to catch the ball, and our guys know that. They have to start making plays."
With one out in the seventh, Garko could have ended the inning with a double play. The Twins tacked on one more later in the inning on Crede single. Take away those two runs and the one DeRosa's error set up, and Carmona's numbers look better, a lot more like Blackburn's.
"We brought in Betancourt to get us a strikeout and get us out of that inning, but if Garko makes that play, we do get out of the inning without any runs," Wedge said. "Then, it's a different game."
The Indians scored in the third, when Grady Sizemore knocked in Asdrubal Cabrera, but after DeRosa followed Sizemore's single with one of his own, Blackburn clamped down, allowing just one more hit before checking out at the end of the seventh inning.
Sizemore, the only Indian with multiple hits, finished 2-for-4.
"I always feel like it is more us," Wedge said of the team's offensive woes. "Their guy did a good job tonight, he definitely did. Good pitching, but I always feel our guys are capable of handling that and doing a better job."
Stephen Ellsesser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.