For Carlos Carrasco, 'everything was good' as Indians keep streaking

CHICAGO -- The word "cookie" has a long history in baseball, and for pitchers, it's not a good one: It's slang for a fat, hittable pitch.

For the player they affectionately call "Cookie," there certainly weren't many cookies on Wednesday. There haven't been for a while, for neither him nor his Cleveland Indians teammates.

"Cookie" is Carlos Carrasco, whose three-hit, complete-game domination of the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday gave the Indians their 14th straight win, tying a franchise record.

When citing a broken or tied record, you often might insert the adjective "longstanding," but that's not appropriate here. The Indians set that record last season, a campaign that saw them come as close to snapping the franchise's World Series drought without actually doing it.

"It feels good, man," Carrasco said. "Just like last year. There's a lot of energy right now. We're playing good, but tomorrow's another game, different day. We're focused on tomorrow."

Carrasco dominated the transaction-depleted White Sox. He struck out nine, walked none, threw just 97 pitches and faced 28 batters -- one over the minimum. He would have faced the minimum, but with two outs in the ninth, Adam Engel deposited a first-pitch fastball over the fence in right-center for the White Sox's lone run.

Carrasco threw 76 pitches for strikes for an amazing 78.3 percent strike rate. Even more amazing: Fifty percent of those strikes were called which, according to ESPN Stats & Info, was a career-best rate.

How does a team watch that many strikes go by?

"Coming into today, I told Cookie they are going to be aggressive on your fastball, so we have to throw a lot of breaking balls early in the count," catcher Roberto Perez said. "We did a pretty good job on that and they didn't make adjustments. So we stuck to that game plan."

Carrasco said he mixed in five different pitches during the game, and all of them were working.

"Everything," Carrasco said. "Fastball, slider, I could throw them any time. Everything was good today."

Facing breaking pitches on 46 percent of Carrasco's offerings, the White Sox went 0-for-13 against his curveball and slider. And when Carrasco did come with the heat, he was working in the 95-to-96 mph offering and hitting 97. There might be some second-division hitters in the lineup of the rebuilding White Sox right now, but that kind of mix of command, stuff and repertoire plays against anyone.

"Carrasco was, my goodness, you talk about throwing strikes," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And quality pitches. That was really impressive. He threw, what, [21] balls the whole game? That's pretty impressive.

"There's games, probably not a ton, where everything just falls into place. There's a lot of other games where you have some of it and you have to maneuver your way through. But tonight, everything was working for him."

It has been working a lot lately for both Carrasco and his teammates in pretty much every facet of the game. That almost goes without saying when a team has won 14 straight, but the streak stands out in a couple of ways.

First, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, no team has had 14-game winning streaks in consecutive seasons since the 1935-36 Cubs. Second, the past 10 of those games have been on the road, during which the Indians have allowed a grand total of 19 runs. Cleveland fans have to be asking: Can we start the playoffs tomorrow?

No, but if the guys in the clubhouse are anxious to skip ahead to October, they certainly aren't showing it.

"Every year is different," said slugger Carlos Santana, who had three hits and hit his 23rd homer. "We're worried about this year. Last year is in the past. We worry about game to game. Right now we're playing good and we're trying to finish strong."

For some time, it has looked like an American League Division Series matchup between the Indians and the Red Sox was a foregone conclusion, and that still very well could happen. But with the Indians closing in on the Astros for the AL's best record and the Boston trying to hold off the Yankees in the AL East, there are still a number of combinations that could come into play.

However, the obvious headliner in a Boston-Cleveland series would be the matchup of aces Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, the two leading contenders for this year's AL Cy Young award. That would be a classic showdown, to be sure.

But the real action might be in the No. 2 slots, where Carrasco looks to have an advantage on anyone the Red Sox could throw out in a Game 2 unless David Price gets healthy and recovers his old form, and time is running out for all that -- especially if Carrasco is dealing like he was on Wednesday.

"He threw a lot of strikes and got in front of pretty much of everybody," Perez said. "He was awesome tonight.

"It is fun when you have a game plan and you execute it. When you see a guy like Cookie throwing all of his pitches for strikes, that makes it fun."

The Indians are having plenty of fun right now. In a way, it's the kind of prolonged hot stretch that fans of the Cubs, Cleveland's foe in last year's World Series, have been waiting for all season. We're still a month out from playoff baseball, but the Indians appear to be in postseason form already.

During the streak, the Indians lead the majors in pretty much everything: 7.0 runs per game, .317 team batting average, 1.86 team ERA (best in AL), 1.85 bullpen ERA. It's all clicking for Cleveland.

"That shows what kind of team we are, how we're playing baseball right now," Perez said. "We're just having fun out there and competing."