Indians' Carlos Carrasco wins 1st start since leukemia diagnosis

CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carrasco looked toward home plate and clutched the ball in his right hand before firing a 95 mph fastball on the game's first pitch.

It was a beginning and an ending.

Carrasco's comeback from cancer is complete.

Starting for the first time since he was diagnosed with leukemia last year, Carrasco struck out 10 in six-plus innings and Jose Ramirez homered twice as Cleveland clobbered the Kansas City Royals 9-2 on Sunday to win two of three in the delayed season-opening series.

Carrasco's journey carried him through energy-sapping medical treatments and periods of doubt over whether he would ever pitch again.

But he managed to return to Cleveland's bullpen in September and got back in the rotation this year. The sight of him standing tall on the mound in Sunday's summer sunshine surely warmed everyone who has followed his feel-good return.

"I've just waited for this moment today,'' he said. "I feel pretty good, man. Keeping my emotions down and just thinking about the way I'm gonna pitch was the key because just getting here to the stadium this morning, I was so happy to getting back to the rotation.''

Ramirez hit a three-run homer left-handed in the fourth and added a solo shot from the right side in the sixth for the Indians, who finally put some solid swings together against Kansas City's bullpen.

With his rotation currently thin due to pitchers testing positive for COVID-19, Royals manager Mike Matheny started reliever Ronald Bolanos (0-1), who gave up two runs in the first and took the loss.

Carrasco couldn't have imagined what was ahead for him and his family when he took the mound on May 30, 2019, against the Chicago White Sox. Only days later, he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a blood disorder that threatened his life. But the affable 33-year-old said a positive mindset has helped him get back doing what he loves most.

"I went through a lot,'' he said. "But for me, I never put anything really bad in my mind. It's always something good. And that's what I did from Day 1 until now.''

Carrasco was in command of the Royals from the outset. He allowed two runs and five hits before he was lifted after allowing a leadoff double in the seventh.

It's been a remarkable road back for Carrasco, whose personal battle with the disease bonded his teammates and rallied Indians fans around the pitcher known as "Cookie.''

Indians manager Terry Francona appreciated Carrasco's start and the right-hander's matter-of-fact approach.

"I don't mean that disrespectfully,'' Francona said. "It looked to me like he was just taking the ball to go win. And I mean that as a compliment. I don't mean ho-hum. I mean he was very professional about it.''

Carrasco retired the first 10 Royals before giving up a one-out double to Adalberto Mondesi in the fourth. But by then, the Indians had scored four times -- helped by two Kansas City errors -- before Ramirez connected for Cleveland's first homer of the season to make it 7-1.

Unable to get any two-out hits in the first two games, the Indians finally connected in the first with Franmil Reyes and Domingo Santana delivering RBI singles. Cleveland came in 0-for-18 with two outs in the series.

The inning was helped by a throwing error by third baseman Erick Mejia and Bolanos' wild pitch.

All-Star Francisco Lindor, who started the season 1-for-10, had an RBI double, and Ramirez scored four times for Cleveland.