CLEVELAND -- The life of a Major League starting pitcher certainly comes with its fair share of perks. As the Tigers and Indians slugged away at each until early Thursday morning, Fausto Carmona was watching the action from the comfort of his home. The guy throwing out the first pitch just a few minutes after noon couldn't possibly take the mound on less than five hours rest like the rest of his teammates. It showed Thursday at Progressive Field as Carmona looked much sharper than the players behind him. The right-handed sinker-baller overcame an inordinate amount of sloppy defense to pick up his first win since May 12 and help the Indians salvage a split in the four-game series with a 9-4 victory.
"I thought he did a really good job of not letting it speed up on him today," manager Eric Wedge said. "We didn't play well defensively and he didn't let that get to him." Quite the leap in just five days for Carmona, who was jumpy from the start in his return from the disabled list last Saturday. In a meltdown from the first pitch, Carmona walked three of the first four batters he faced before he was chased after allowing nine runs in three innings. Instead, the Carmona that Wedge and the 34,186 in attendance saw Thursday was the same player who picked up 19 wins last year and showed flashes of the same dominance early this season, minus some control problems. His ability to overcome his fielders' woes Thursday stemmed from his ability to give them more chances with constant ground balls and allowed him to last 6 1/3 innings in picking up his fifth win of the year. "You just control what you control," Wedge said. "What he does is put the ball on the ground and gives himself the chance to get two outs with one pitch." For the record, Carmona didn't induce any double plays on this day, but he was able to minimize the damage when he had to. His better composure showed right from the start, when he fell behind in the first inning after a wayward passed ball let Curtis Granderson advance from first base to third before eventually scoring him on a sacrifice fly. But unlike Saturday, it didn't snowball on him. "I was more relaxed and more loose on the mound today," Carmona said through interpreter and first-base coach Luis Rivera. The relaxed demeanor may have rubbed off on the Tribe's offense. Less than 12 hours after they were unable to execute a number of prime scoring opportunities in the 14-12, 13-inning loss, the Indians gave Carmona some cushion with timely hits off Justin Verlander. Back-to-back two-out doubles from Ben Francisco and Jhonny Peralta in the first inning tied the game at 1. In the fifth, bottom-of-the-order hitters Sal Fasano and Asdrubal Cabrera worked Verlander for a hit-by-pitch and a walk, respectively, before Grady Sizemore provided the biggest blow of the day, a three-run homer -- his 27th of the season -- to put the Indians ahead for good. But the game didn't come to an end without a few tense moments and a number of puzzling defensive miscues from baseball's best fielding team. Perhaps it was the result of some foggy eyes and heads, but Wedge wouldn't make excuses for his club that, after three errors Thursday, added seven errors to its season total (53) in less than 24 hours. "The last two games have been really bad," Wedge said. "I'm not happy at all with some of the missed opportunities and the way we played defensively. There's no excuse for it." The Tigers picked up another unearned run off Carmona in the sixth inning when Cabrera lost an infield fly in the sun, allowing Ramon Santiago to advance from second to third before scoring on a grounder mishandled, again, by Cabrera. But with two runners on, Carmona remained calm, inducing a Marcus Thames popup to end the threat. "I didn't worry about it," Carmona said. "Matter of fact, when somebody made an error, I pointed at myself and said 'Let's go, you're going to be OK for the next ground ball.' It definitely didn't bother me." But after the Tribe gave him more support in the sixth inning with a Fasano RBI single and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch from Sizemore, it got even sloppier on Carmona in the seventh. Shin-Soo Choo, who said he forgot to grab his sunglasses before the inning, lost leadoff batter Edgar Renteria's pop fly in the sun, resulting in a double. Ryan Raburn followed with a single before both eventually scored as a result of a misplayed wild pitch by Fasano. But even after another Tribe error, Rafael Perez was able to end the inning with a 6-4-3 double play before he and Masa Kobayashi combined for perfect eighth and ninth innings, respectively. "It just shows the type of character we have here," said Fasano, who added an RBI double in the Tribe's three-run eighth inning. "We only had a couple hours sleep and came out here and battled our tail off for nine innings. "It's tough, but that's what we're paid for." Some players, though, just get a few more benefits.
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.