July 25, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Pavano project sees progress

Chris Assenheimer

The Gazette

CLEVELAND — The Carl Pavano reclamation project is working wonders in Cleveland these days.

Pavano, a veteran right-hander thought to be on the last leg of his career before signing a free-agent contract with the Indians in the offseason, continued his impressive string of starts Tuesday night to help the Indians to a 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Thanks to Pavano’s effort and a rare power display from Cleveland hitters, the Indians were able to win their second straight game for just the fourth time this season.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s futility in Cleveland continued with the Rays losing for the 15th straight time at the Indians’ home park.

The game was played under consistent rain, with a 32-minute delay arriving with the Indians coming to bat in the fourth inning. But none of the inclement conditions bothered Pavano (5-4, 5.50).

He won for the fifth time in his last six starts, allowing a run on four hits over seven innings, while striking out six.

“He’s been real strong and real consistent,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “He has a routine and he sticks to it. He looks to be getting stronger. I’ve been really impressed with the consistency he’s been giving us.”

Pavano has gotten increasingly better as the season has progressed. He allowed 19 earned runs over his first four starts, but has surrendered just 15 over his last six outings. Pavano has not al-lowed more than three runs in any of his last six starts.

“The results are definitely showing that I’m getting stronger,” said Pavano, who made just nine starts in three seasons prior to this year after signing a lucrative long-term contract with the Yan-kees. “I didn’t really know what to expect (this year). Things came a little slower than I thought, but things have turned the corner pretty quickly.”

Pavano surrendered just two hits over the first four innings and was in trouble just once, with runners on first and second and no outs in the fourth after a leadoff single from Carl Crawford and a walk to Evan Longoria.

He emerged without a run scoring, striking out Carlos Pena, before retiring Willie Aybar and Ben Zobrist in succession.

Pavano allowed his lone run on a home run to Pena to lead off the seventh inning.

“I was just trying to mix it up and stay unpredictable,” said Pavano, who faced the Rays on May 16 in Tampa Bay.

All of Cleveland’s offense was powered by the homer. The Indians went deep four times, begin-ning with Ryan Garko’s one-out solo shot to right-center in the second inning off Matt Garza.

Garko, who had two homers through his first 32 games, has gone deep three times in the last two nights.

Asdrubal Cabrera put the Indians in front 2-0 with a solo homer in the third, and Mark DeRosa connected for a two-run shot off Garza to extend the lead to 4-0. Kelly Shoppach capped Cleveland’s scoring with a solo shot in the seventh.

“We had the big ball working tonight,” said Wedge, whose club ranks near the bottom of the American League in the department. “It was good stuff.”

The Indians got a spotless performance from its bullpen. Rafael Betancourt pitched a scoreless eighth inning before turning it over to closer Kerry Wood.

Wood allowed a leadoff single to Aybar before retiring the next three batters for his eighth save in 10 chances.

After the game, the Indians announced they would promote left-hander Zach Jackson from Triple-A Columbus to start tonight against the Rays. He will replace reliever Rich Rundles on the roster.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.