June 27, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Indians: Starting pitching struggles again as Tribe starts 0-2

CLEVELAND – It is two up and two down for the Indians.

Cleveland followed up a regrettable effort on Opening Day with another loss Saturday, dropping an 8-3 decision to the White Sox that secured the season-opening series for Chicago.

The defeat took place in front of the smallest crowd ever at Jacobs/Progressive Field – 9,853.

And once again, a slow start from its starting pitcher spelled doom for Cleveland.

Right-hander Carlos Carrasco surrendered five runs over the first two innings en route to seven for the game. Ace Fausto Carmona allowed 10 runs over the first four innings of the opener.

That’s 17 runs allowed on 21 hits through 92/3 innings for Tribe starters.

“It’s only been two games,” manager Manny Acta said. “I think those two guys are going to be fine. I’m not anticipating any of those guys struggling like that (the rest of the season).”

Carrasco, who came to camp with a job secured following an impressive seven-start stint late last year, was harpooned by a four-run second inning from the Sox.

He pitched effectively after that, allowing two runs on three hits over his final

42/3 innings.

“I just had one bad inning,” Carrasco said. “The rest was good.

“They hit everything the first two innings. Then I started throwing my breaking stuff. The first two innings, I threw too many fastballs. My fastball was up in the zone.”

“I really liked the effort that Carlos gave us,” Acta said. “I think he established that slider after (the second inning). But the second inning was too much.”

As they did on Opening Day, the Indians rallied, trimming the deficit to 5-3 with three runs in the second.

Designated hitter Travis Hafner led off with his first home run, a solo shot to right field. Jack Hannahan knocked in the other two runs on a base hit to left.

Hafner’s homer gave him 176 as an Indian, good for 10th place on the all-time list behind Rocky Colavito (190). He is 4-for-9 with a homer and two RBIs this year.

“It’s good to get off to a good start,” said Hafner, who has made mechanical adjustments to his swing after struggles in the power department the past three seasons. “I feel good swinging the bat. I’m just hoping to continue that.”

Hafner hit just one homer this spring.

“Haf has been fine,” Acta said. “He had quality at-bats in spring training. He didn’t hit home runs but he’s fine. He’s healthy. He’s going to be able to get out there more often. In two games, he’s been good.

“To me, it’s a matter of him being healthy, and he is.”

Hafner’s offensive production is less surprising than Hannahan’s. The defensive-minded third baseman, who has played well in the field, has mirrored Hafner’s hot start at the plate.

He is 4-for-9 with a homer and three RBIs.

“I’m feeling good at the plate,” said Hannahan, who made a diving catch of a line drive. “I’m feeling good all-around. I’m just trying to put up good at-bats and help the team win.”

The White Sox have put up good at-bats throughout the series, scoring 23 runs on 29 hits.

Right fielder Carlos Quentin and second baseman Gordon Beckham have done the most damage, each going 5-for-8, with Quentin collecting three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs.

It was Quentin’s two-out, two-run double off reliever Chad Durbin that put the game away in the seventh, with Chicago forging ahead by the final count.

Beckham bats second and Quentin sixth, with Chicago’s third and fourth hitters – Adam Dunn (.429, HR, five RBIs) and Paul Konerko (.429, two RBIs) – also contributing to the assault against the Indians.

“Those guys continue to swing the bat well,” Acta said. “The middle of the lineup is really good.”

It looks as though the Indians really aren’t, but Acta isn’t ready to offer any assessments this early into the season.

“I feel good about my team,” he said. “I’m not going to judge my team on two games.”

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