Just as the club's vaunted rotation appeared to be hitting its stride, the Cleveland Indians are bracing for the worst after one of their frontline starters went down.
While losing Carlos Carrasco for an extended period would certainly hurt, the Indians appear to be in good hands in the short term as they give the ball Danny Salazar on Monday night in the opener of a three-game road series against the Minnesota Twins.
Cleveland starters had a 3.25 ERA during a 13-game stretch and limited opponents to two runs or less in four of five before Sunday.
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That's when Carrasco suffered a hamstring injury in the third inning of a 6-3 win that gave the Indians a three-game sweep at Detroit. The celebration was subdued, however, with the right-hander's prognosis looking grim after he had grabbed his leg in agony.
"It's going to be a DL situation, but we're just hoping it isn't terrible," manager Terry Francona said. "We sent him back to Cleveland, because without an MRI, we're not going to know anything. When you see a guy go down like that, it is deflating."
Salazar (2-1, 1.47 ERA) has been as good as anyone in the rotation. Now he'll try to give Cleveland (9-7) an emotional lift by leading the club to its first six-game road winning streak since a 10-game run from Aug. 8-Sept. 5, 2008.
The right-hander is coming off his first loss despite allowing two runs and three hits while striking out seven over seven innings in Wednesday's 2-1 home loss to Seattle.
The Indians had won five in a row versus Minnesota (5-14) in Salazar's starts before he surrendered three runs over six innings in a 3-1 loss at Target Field on Sept. 22.
Brian Dozier should be happy to see him again as he's 9 for 18 with two home runs and four doubles lifetime in the matchup. Dozier went 2 for 6 with a three-run homer but the Twins wrapped up a 1-4 trip with Sunday's 6-5, 16-inning loss at Washington.
"We have to regroup and put this game behind us," manager Paul Molitor said. "It is horrible stretch."
Though they've averaged 3.1 runs and hit .226 while going 1-10 on the road, they've scored 5.2 and batted .305 in winning four of their last five at Target Field. Eduardo Nunez, who had four hits at Washington, has gone 9 for 21 in his six home games.
Tommy Milone (0-1, 5.87) looks to rebound after getting knocked around in three starts. The left-hander failed to escape the fifth inning for the second time Wednesday when he allowed four runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 10-5 loss at Milwaukee.
Milone, though, is 3-1 with a 1.27 ERA in his last five starts versus Cleveland. He won both his matchups last season, helping Minnesota take 12 of 19 in the season series.
Cleveland has come alive offensively with 16 runs and 26 hits in its last two games. Jason Kipnis has had four of those hits and is batting .364 in his past 11 versus the Twins.
Kipnis has gone 6 for 15 with a triple and a double when facing Milone.
Michael Brantley, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, could make his season debut in this series.