The Cleveland Indians right-hander will be returning to the scene of the lowest point of his young major-league career when he starts against Boston’s Curt Schilling with the Red Sox holding a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The last two times Carmona pitched at Fenway he suffered blown saves in the Indians’ ill-fated attempt to make him a closer. Those games came last year on July 31 and Aug. 2 in Carmona’s rookie year.
In the first game, Carmona came on to start the ninth inning with the Indians holding an 8-6 lead. However, Alex Cora led off with a single and Kevin Youkilis walked. After Mark Loretta popped out, David Ortiz blasted a game-winning home run to center field.
Two nights later, Carmona was called on at the beginning of the ninth to protect a 5-4 lead and quickly struck out Wily Mo Pena and Coco Crisp. However, Carmona then hit Doug Mirabelli and Alex Gonzalez with pitches and walked Youkilis to load the bases. Loretta followed with a game-winning two-run double to left.
Carmona blew yet another save in his next game, Aug. 5 at Detroit, and the closer experiment ended as Bob Wickman was reinstalled to his old post.
However, that seems like eons ago to Carmona and the Indians. After finishing 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 38 games, seven starts, last season, Carmona has had quite the turnaround this year as he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 32 starts during the regular season then held the New York Yankees, the highest-scoring team in the major leagues, to one run on three hits in nine innings while getting a no-decision in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
Carmona was second in the AL with 6.8 SNLVAR this season, just behind the Los Angeles Angels’ John Lackey at 6.9. Carmona was also second among AL pitchers in VORP at 64.0, trailing only teammate C.C. Sabathia, who had a 65.2 mark.
That performance has helped Carmona put his last year’s nightmare far behind him.
“From the stretch I went through last year as a closer, I learned a lot,” Carmona said Friday as Indians coach Luis Rivera interpreted. “I don’t regret what I went through last year because it makes me stronger. I worked hard in the Dominican during winter ball on my confidence and my pitches. Coming into spring training, I forgot completely about what happened the year before. I feel like it was a new start for me and I was going to take the opportunity and do the most with it.”