CLEVELAND -- In typical "Would you rather?" fashion, neither of the options presented to Fausto Carmona were all that appealing. Would you rather pitch in 30-degree weather or while under attack by a swarm of midges? "That," Carmona said through interpreter Luis Rivera, "is a tough question."
Carmona didn't have an answer to that question, but the White Sox didn't have an answer to him on a wintry Wednesday night, in which the game-time temperature was 34 degrees and sinking. Of course, Carmona's mid- to upper-90s fastball was sinking, too, and that was the key to the Tribe's 7-2 victory in front of a sparse crowd of frigid fans at Progressive Field. Carmona, in his first start in Cleveland since the famous "Bug Game" against the Yankees in last fall's American League Division Series, chilled the Sox bats for seven innings. Looking every bit like the kid who came out of nowhere to win 19 games in his first full season in the Tribe rotation, all he gave up was a run on four hits with four walks and four strikeouts. "Fausto threw a very strong ballgame," manager Eric Wedge said. "He was in control and command throughout. He did a good job staying consistent in his rhythm and slowing himself down when he needed to." A testament to the sizzle of Carmona's sinker was the fact that he induced three double plays and 16 ground-ball outs. "It was a combination of everything," Carmona said. "I was throwing my slider for strikes, my sinker for strikes, my changeup for strikes. I was working ahead and keeping the ball down." If there was a downside to this display of dominance, it was that Carmona's poor outfielders were left standing around in a Siberian slumber with little to no fly balls to chase. What does one do to fill the void and avoid glaciation? "You run around in circles, do jumping jacks," center fielder Grady Sizemore said. "Anything you can do to stay warm." Fortunately for Carmona, Sizemore and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera were plenty warm at the plate. They each put together a three-hit night to key an offensive attack that knocked Sox starter Javier Vazquez out of the ballgame after just five innings of work. With the bases loaded and two out in the second, Sizemore lifted a soft liner to the opposite field in left to make it 2-0. In the fifth, Sizemore tripled and scored on Cabrera's single. Another run came home later that inning when Vazquez walked Franklin Gutierrez with the bases loaded. Sizemore continued to shine in the sixth, when he knocked in another run with a single to right off right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal. Cabrera followed with an RBI single of his own to make it 6-1. "We both came up with RBI opportunities and got some pitches to hit and were able to do something with them," Sizemore said. "I thought we did a good job making [Vazquez] work and making him throw a lot of pitches." The work of the offense made life easier on Carmona, even if the cold didn't. But as was the case when the midges swarmed upon the Indians and Yanks in October, Carmona didn't flinch as a result of the conditions. In fact, he pitched this gem in short sleeves. "He's tough," Wedge said. "That goes right along with his mental toughness and character." Carmona will have to be mentally tough, now that he has a target on his back after his breakout 2007 campaign. But as long as he has that devastating sinkerball working, he should be just fine. "I'm prepared for a good season," he said. "Hopefully, I can pitch the same way all year." And hopefully his choices of Cleveland conditions improve.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.