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FAUSTO CARMONA & the Best Dominican Starting Pitchers in the Division Series

Last night, Fausto Carmona of the Cleveland Indians hurled nine innings of three-hit ball in a masterful performance that should have surprised absolutely no one.

The six-foot-four, 190-pound right-hander went 10-4 before the All-Game this year, and 9-4 afterwards to finish just one win behind the major league leader.  Carmona’s 2.26 earned run average after the break lowered his overall mark to 3.06, missing the best mark in the American League by five-hundredths of a run per nine innings.

Carmona commands his fastball on both sides of home plate, and mixes in sliders and changeups to keep hitters guessing.  His favorite target is down and away, and he gets lots of groundballs with an outstanding, heavy sinker.

“It’s not normal.  He’s not even human,” lamented Minnesota’s Torii Hunter after Carmona fired a shutout to beat Johan Santana and the Twins in mid-May.  “It was so scary.  I thought I was hung over.”

The amount of movement Carmona gets on his pitches makes him particularly tough on right-handed hitters, who managed just a .216 average against him this year. 

Even when the Marlins handed Carmona his first loss in more than eight weeks back in June, Florida skipper Fredi Gonzalez remarked that “there should be a different league for that guy”.

“The word electric certainly applies to him,” added Marlins first baseman Aaron Boone.

Carmona’s outstanding season is even more remarkable considering the degree of disappointment that plagued him in 2006.  After the Indians 2003 minor league player-of-the-year won his major league debut with six solid innings in Detroit on April 15, he went 0-10 the rest of the year.  Six of those losses came in relief, including three in consecutive appearances from July 31-August 5 when he blew saves in an ill-fated opportunity to become Cleveland’s closer. 

His ERA was a dismal 5.42 by season’s end, though he improved as a starter in September after a stint in the minors.  Carmona’s confidence continued to grow in the Dominican League over the winter, and knowing what to expect from big league hitters has helped him remain calm as he goes right after them.

“I’ll walk around the mound and make sure I throw the right pitch,” he explains.  “I’m not rushing on the mound.  I’m putting thought before my actions.”

The results speak for themselves when Carmona pitches like he did on July 25.  That’s the game in which he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Red Sox and beat their ace, Josh Beckett, 1-0.  Carmona is the youngest Cleveland pitcher to win at least nineteen games since Hall of Famer Bob Feller, and he hopes to win a World Series ring like Feller did in 1948.  If he keeps pitching like he did against the Yankees last night, it seems the Indians are well on their way.

by MALCOLM ALLEN

onetoughdominican47@hotmail.com

****************************************************************

Using Bill James’ formula for “game scores”, Fausto Carmona’s effort on October 5, 2007 matched the best performance ever by a starting pitcher from the Dominican Republic in the division series round of the playoffs.

Eleven Dominican pitchers have started a total of twenty-seven division series games since their inception in 1995.   Here is how they fared:

BARTOLO COLON:  1-3, 4.15 in 8 starts

PEDRO MARTINEZ:  3-0, 3.38 in 5 starts

RAMON MARTINEZ:  0-1, 5.00 in 3 starts

MIGUEL BATISTA:  1-1, 5.59 in 2 starts

FAUSTO CARMONA:  0-0, 1.00 in 1 start

JOSE LIMA:  1-1, 2.30 in 2 starts

ODALIS PEREZ:  0-1, 14.40 in 2 starts

PEDRO  ASTACIO:  0-1, 4.50 in 1 start

UBALDO JIMENEZ:  0-0, 1.42 in 1 start 

RAMON ORTIZ:  0-0, 20.25 in 1 start

JORGE SOSA:  0-1, 4.50 in 1 start

The five worst game scores posted by Dominican starters in division series play are as follows:

5) 33 – Miguel BATISTA (Diamondbacks @ Cardinals – 10/5/02):  3.2ip 5h 4r 4er 3bb 1k hbp  Batista had beaten St. Louis in the NLDS a year before en route to an Arizona World Series title, but he couldn’t hold an early two-run lead in this one & got charged with the loss as the Diamondbacks were eliminated in a sweep.

4) 25 – Odalis PEREZ (Dodgers @ Cardinals – 10/5/04):  2.2 ip 5h 6r 6er 2bb 3k 3hr  Perez got clobbered in the series opener, taking the loss.  He didn’t fare much better in game four.  Though he got no-decision, he failed to last three innings again as Los Angeles dropped the series.

3) 25 – Ramon ORTIZ (Angels v. Yankees – 10/4/02):  2.2 ip 3h 6r 6er 4bb 1k  Ortiz left with Anaheim trailing 6-3 in the critical third game of the series, but they came back to win the game en route to a championship.  Ortiz beat the Giants in game three of the World Series.

2) 16 – Ramon MARTINEZ (Dodgers v. Reds – 10/3/95):  4.1 ip 10h 7r 7er 2bb 3k hr  The Dodgers are 1-12 overall in NLDS play, and this is where it all began.  Martinez got tagged for four runs in the top of the first, and Los Angeles never got back into the series.

1) 13 – Bartolo COLON (Indians @ Red Sox – 10/10/99):  1ip 6h 7r 7er 1bb 1k 2hr  After pitching brilliantly in game one, Colon missed a chance to close out the series at Fenway.  Before it was over, the Red Sox routed the Indians 23-7 and scored another dozen runs back in Cleveland to win the series in five.

In contrast, here are the five best starts turned in by Dominican pitchers during the division series:

5) 72 – Bartolo COLON (Indians v. Red Sox – 10/6/99):  8ip 5h 2r 2er 3bb 11k hr  Through four innings, Colon was outdueled by fellow Dominican Pedro Martinez and trailing 2-0.  Martinez left with an injury, however, and Colon was brilliant.  He got no-decision, as Cleveland didn’t prevail until the bottom of the ninth.

4) 75 – Ramon MARTINEZ (Dodgers v. Braves – 10/2/96):  8ip 3h 1r 1er 3bb 6k Martinez and John Smoltz locked up in an epic pitchers’ duel in the series opener, but the Braves pulled it out on Javy Lopez’ homer in the top of the 10th and went on to sweep the Dodgers.

3) 78 – Bartolo COLON (Indians @ Mariners – 10/9/01):  8ip 6h 0r 0er 2bb 10k  Colon throttled the 116-victory Mariners to win the series opener, and nearly closed out the series in the fourth game when he carried a shutout into the seventh before tiring (and losing).

1-tie) 80 – Fausto CARMONA (Indians v. Yankees – 10/5/07):  9ip 3h 1r 1er 2bb 5k hr  Carmona shut down the highest scoring team in seven seasons, save for a solo homer by fellow Dominican Melky Cabrera.  Cabrera also gunned down a runner at the plate to deny Carmona a win, but the Indians prevailed in extra innings to take a 2-0 series lead.

1-tie) 80 – Jose LIMA (Dodgers v. Cardinals – 10/9/04):  9ip 5h 0r 0er 1bb 4k   Lima earned Los Angeles’ only NLDS victory in thirteen tries by winning the third game of this series agains the eventual NL champions, who wrapped up the series the following day.

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