|First and worst as Indians host O's|
CLEVELAND -- Two teams that are a study in contrasts will meet Friday night at Progressive Field to open a three-game series: The Cleveland Indians, who have the biggest lead in any division in the majors, will face the Baltimore Orioles, who are the farthest out of first place of any last-place team in the big leagues.
Cleveland (69-51) leads the AL Central by 12 1/2 games over second-place Minnesota. Baltimore (36-85) is 49 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Boston.
Cleveland swept a three-game series in April in Baltimore. Since the start of the 2017 season, the Indians are 9-1 against the Orioles.
The pitching matchup Friday night is Indians veteran right-hander Carlos Carrasco (14-6, 3.50 ERA) vs. Orioles rookie right-hander David Hess (2-6, 6.25).
Carrasco has been on a roll for most of the season, but since coming off the disabled list on July 6 he has been almost unbeatable. Carrasco was placed on the 10-day disabled list on June 17 with a right elbow contusion, the result of getting hit by a line drive.
He was activated on July 6, and in eight appearances since then he is 6-1 with a 2.00 ERA. In 45 innings, he has 59 strikeouts and five walks.
"He came back (from the DL) fresh, and for whatever reason there was no rust at all," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco. "So we're able to use that to our advantage, because his tank still looks full, and we're in the middle of August."
Carrasco's recipe for success is basic pitching 101.
"He establishes his fastball early, and once he puts his velocity in the head (of hitters), they have to respect that, and that makes his breaking ball really effective," Francona said.
Friday will be Carrasco's second start of the season against the Orioles. On April 23 in Baltimore, he was a 2-1 winner, pitching 7 1/3 innings and allowing one run and six hits, with seven strikeouts and two walks. In six career appearances against Baltimore, Carrasco is 3-2 with a 2.51 ERA.
Hess has split the 2018 season between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk. In nine starts for Norfolk, he was 3-2 with a 3.15 ERA.
In Hess' last start for the Orioles, he had a no-decision in a 5-4 Baltimore loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 9. Hess pitched 5 2/3 innings in that game, allowing three runs and four hits, with three strikeouts and three walks.
Hess' last major league win came May 25. In 10 appearances (eight starts) since then, he is 0-5 with a 7.13 ERA. Friday will be his first career appearance against Cleveland.
The struggling Orioles come into Friday's game having lost 10 of their last 12 games, the last of those being a 16-5 blowout loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday.
After a lackluster first half, Cleveland started to build some momentum in the second half. The Indians are 18-8 since the All-Star break. They lead the majors with 98 stolen bases and are second in the American League with 166 home runs.
Cleveland is the only team in the majors that has four players with 70 or more RBIs: Jose Ramirez (89), Edwin Encarnacion (81), Francisco Lindor (75) and Yonder Alonso (70).