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08/23/09 4:59 PM ET
Dominant Carmona outduels M's ace
Tribe right-hander earns first victory since return
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- For Fausto Carmona, it was a win more than three months in the making. Carmona went seven strong innings and the Tribe bats backed him up with a strong effort against Felix Hernandez, as the Indians beat the Mariners, 6-1, to take a series victory at Progressive Field that ended their homestand on a strong note. In his fifth start since his return from a two-month banishment to the Minors, Carmona in some ways looked like his old self from 2007, in that he controlled the pace and tempo of the game and came out the victor. But in other ways, Carmona a different pitcher than the one who won 19 games two years back, because he has a deeper assortment of offspeed pitches he feels comfortable using in any count. "He's going to be different," manager Eric Wedge said. "He was more of a thrower two years ago, and his stuff played up here. ... When you look at what he's done this year and the work he's done and the path he's on, to put it into play is a little more real." It looked quite real on this day, as Carmona puzzled the Mariners for seven innings in which he allowed just a run on five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. The walk tally was probably what satisfied him more than anything else. Carmona, who picked up his first win since way back on May 14 against the Rays, said this was his best start of the year, and it was an inarguable claim. "I was getting ahead of the hitters," he said through an interpreter, "and I was very aggressive." Carmona's only hiccup came in the top of the fourth, when he fell behind leadoff man Ken Griffey Jr. in a 2-0 count and hung a fastball that Griffey pounded over the center-field wall to even the score at 1. But the new-look Carmona (3-8, 5.92 ERA) was on display in another at-bat against Junior. It came in the top of the sixth, when Carmona fell behind, 3-0, then worked the count full on a pair of fastballs. In a 3-2 count, Carmona threw Griffey a changeup, and the future Hall of Famer went down swinging. Carmona said he never would have thrown that pitch in that situation two years ago. "I trust my changeup more now," he said. "I feel I can throw it any time." That's a byproduct of the experiment in which Carmona was ousted off the big league roster on June 5 and sent to Goodyear, Ariz., to get his head and his mechanics straightened out. He slowly climbed the Minor League ladder and rejoined the Tribe on July 31. Time will tell if the experiment will produce lasting success, but it certainly paid off Sunday. "He's got arguably some of the best stuff in baseball," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said of Carmona. "It starts in the zone and disappears. You have to be able to get his pitch count up sooner, and we weren't able to." And Hernandez wasn't able to tame a Tribe offense that was strong from top to bottom on this day. Jhonny Peralta drove in the game's first run after Grady Sizemore led off with a triple in the first, and Peralta answered Griffey's blast with a solo shot of his own in the fourth to put the Tribe ahead, 2-1. The Indians broke the game open in the sixth, after Peralta reached on a Jose Lopez fielding error at second. Travis Hafner singled to put two on, and Luis Valbuena, who had the walk-off winner Saturday night, came through with an RBI single up the middle. Matt LaPorta doubled to bring home another run and make it 4-1. "[LaPorta] just flicked his wrist on a slider and sent it over the left fielder's head," Wedge said. And after Wyatt Toregas scored Valbuena on a sacrifice fly, Andy Marte ripped an RBI single to left to make it 6-1. The Indians never looked back. Carmona protected the lead in the seventh, and he capped his impressive outing by striking out catcher Rob Johnson in a 12-pitch at-bat. When Johnson went down swinging, Carmona pounded his fist in his glove in triumph. Considering this was his first triumph in more than three months, Carmona wanted to savor it. "I feel great," he said. "It was a long time since the last win. I pitched well today, we won the game and I've got to continue to go forward."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.