CLEVELAND (AP) – Fausto Carmona pitched eight shutout innings against Boston, the team that blasted him when he flopped as a closer last season, leading the Cleveland Indians over the Red Sox 1-0 on Wednesday night.
Carmona (13-4) improved to 5-0 in July, allowing four singles and raising his scoreless innings streak to 18. The hard-throwing right-hander was just slightly better than Josh Beckett (13-4), who lost on the road for the first time since last September.
The 23-year-old had not faced the Red Sox since blowing consecutive save chances at Fenway Park last season, two outings three nights apart that rattled the right-hander and all but finished the Indians’ experiment with him as their closer.
But put back in the rotation this season, Carmona has become one of the AL’s top starters, and one of the major reasons the Indians are back in playoff contention.
After throwing 113 pitches, Carmona was replaced by Joe Borowski, who worked the ninth for his 29th save. Borowski struck out Coco Crisp and Dustin Pedroia to start the ninth before retiring David Ortiz on a soft pop to third. Ortiz returned after missing five games because of a shoulder injury and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.
The Red Sox had their winning streak stopped at five.
Beckett came in 6-0 with a 1.71 ERA in six starts away from Fenway Park. He nearly matched Carmona pitch for pitch, but gave up a solo homer to Franklin Gutierrez in the third as the Indians duplicated Boston’s 1-0 victory on Tuesday.
Beckett allowed four hits in his fourth career complete game and first since Aug. 13, 2005 – a span of 60 starts – when he was with Florida.
Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez made three standout plays to back Carmona, blocking the plate in the sixth to keep it 1-0 and throwing out two runners attempting to steal in the eighth.
Carmona, who went 1-10 last season and opened 2007 with his 11th consecutive loss, held the Red Sox without a hit for the first five, and it appeared he could be on his way to making history when Alex Cora opened the sixth with a line drive that third baseman Casey Blake backhanded.
But with one out, Crisp grounded a ball through the middle that Jhonny Peralta stopped with a dive, but the shortstop couldn’t recover quickly enough to throw out Boston’s speedster.
Cleveland fans, who have not seen a no-hitter in 1,061 games over 13 years at Jacobs Field, gave Carmona a warm ovation before he threw his next pitch. Crisp moved up on a groundout and nearly tied it on Ortiz’s single.
Ortiz hit a grounder that second baseman Josh Barfield ran down in short right-center. With no chance to get Ortiz, Barfield held the ball but alertly threw home when Crisp decided to break for the plate.
Martinez scooped Barfield’s throw on the right side, and shifted his body across the plate, shielding Crisp from sliding under the tag to preserve Cleveland’s precarious lead.
Gutierrez put the Indians ahead in the third, leading off with his sixth homer. Gutierrez’s shot scattered fans on the home run porch in left and the souvenir nearly snaked its way through the iron gates behind the bleachers as a group of fans gave chase.
The Indians turned a nifty double play behind Carmona in the second.
With one on, Kevin Youkilis hit a hard grounder through the middle that Peralta snagged on the run before making a backhanded flip to Barfield, who snared it barehanded and stepped on second. Barfield’s return throw was dug out of the dirt by first baseman Ryan Garko.
Notes: Garko went 0-for-3, hit into a double play and had his hitting streak stopped at 17 games. … Boston’s 1-0 win on Tuesday snapped a seven-game losing streak in one-run decisions, the club’s longest such slide since 1992.