CLEVELAND — The Indians picked a good day to come back from the dead.
Riding a season-high three-game skid and with seven losses in nine games, Cleveland snapped out of the funk Sunday just in time to avoid a sweep by the Blue Jays, beating Toronto 6-4 in front of a sparse crowd of 11,716 at Progressive Field.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and Easter Sunday than with a win,” said right fielder David Murphy, whose three-run double in the sixth inning was the winning hit.
Cleveland appeared headed for another defeat after the Blue Jays figured out Indians starter Carlos Carrasco the second time through the order and led 4-2 after five innings. But Murphy ignited a struggling offense, producing Cleveland’s first hit of the series with runners in scoring position, and the bullpen kept the Jays in check the rest of the way.
Possibly pitching for his spot in the rotation, Carrasco (0-2, 7.31 ERA) was perfect through three innings before allowing the first three batters in the fourth to reach on hits. Toronto scored three times to lead 3-1 after the Indians had grabbed the early advantage on Michael Brantley’s third home run in the second inning off right-hander Brandon Morrow.
“I think they know (the) second time through the lineup what pitch was coming, because that’s what I did from the first inning through the third,” Carrasco said. “I think I missed my spot twice and they get ground ball and they get two runs right there. I think that’s the big difference in what I did.
“I feel better right now and I’m working on my mechanics and everything and I feel today that I did (better). I gave up four runs but, really, I feel good with everything. I’m just trying to get more deep in the game. That’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
“Early on, (he was) pretty good,” Francona said of Carrasco, who allowed four runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out five over 5⅔ innings. “As he started to get into the game, I think he was fighting his mechanics again a little bit. That lead arm was coming down a little lower and lower. I think that kind of coincides with when he starts giving up hits.
“But he competed and he threw some really good off-speed pitches, especially when he got ahead in the count. You just get to that portion of the game where a guy’s nearing 90 (pitches), and we’re not scoring runs in bunches, I really wanted to kind of snuff out anything.”
While the Blue Jays failed to do damage in the sixth, the Indians capitalized on a shaky left-hander in the bottom of the inning.
Toronto reliever Aaron Loup walked three straight with two outs — Carlos Santana, Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera — and Murphy followed by slashing the bases-clearing, opposite-field double to left.
“You definitely have to give credit to all those guys,” Murphy said. “Those were tremendous at-bats. Carlos got on. Brantley’s at-bat was amazing and Cabby just continued to battle until he got on there.
“In a situation like that, for me, that’s about as tough of a lefty as I’m going to face. A guy throwing from that angle really forces me to stay on the ball. Fortunately, he gave me a good pitch to hit.”
Nick Swisher’s sacrifice fly gave the Indians an insurance run in the eighth inning, but they still had to sweat it out in the ninth.
Closer John Axford struck out the first batter, then loaded the bases by walking Jose Bautista on four pitches with two outs. Axford retired the dangerous Edwin Encarnacion on a grounder up the middle to second baseman Jason Kipnis, who was shifted perfectly.
Axford converted his sixth save in seven chances and secured a potentially confidence-building victory.
“Hopefully, this is exactly what we need to get on a roll,” Murphy said. “We hadn’t been playing terrible, but we definitely haven’t been playing characteristic of ourselves. A day like today is one of those days that can get you rolling.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.