On Thursday night, the usually lifeless Chicago Cubs‘ bats exploded on Carroll’s mistakes. For the first time in three games, the 29-year-old starter did not make it past the fifth inning, allowing six runs on eleven hits in only four frames.
Carroll began his major league career two weeks ago after a treacherous journey in the minor leagues with a dominant performance against the Tampa Bay Rays. He went 7.1 innings, giving up only one earned run as he manipulated the zone by pinpointing his pitches in a Greg Maddux-like way. Even with his impressive performance, Carroll needed to prove that the first start was not a fluke.
In his second start against the Cleveland Indians earlier this month, Carroll rode the momentum from his first outing. He went six innings, giving up zero earned runs but lost due to no run support. Once again Carroll used the lack of a scouting report on him to his advantage. His slider was knee buckling, his fastball had devastating movement up in the zone and his curveball baffled hitters. Carroll made some mistakes by leaving pitches out over the heart of the plate, but the Indians could not take advantage of it.
Heading into Thursday’s game, Carroll had to get over his first metaphorical barrier in his major league career. For someone who has beaten every obstacle placed in front of him because of his desire to never quit, the journeyman was ready to overcome whatever came his way. This time, the challenge that he was up against was knowledge — knowledge that teams around the league have gained about his stuff.
Unfortunately for Carroll and the White Sox, the Cubs’ game plan to beat Carroll worked to perfection. Instead of strictly working the count in order to pick up on what he was offering, the Cubs jumped on any pitch they saw fit. Anthony Rizzo clobbered a slider from Carroll over the outfield wall as part of a four-run Cubs third. Starlin Castro smashed his fifth home run of the year on a Carroll offering that had no movement whatsoever. Timely hitting and taking advantage of Carroll’s mistakes allowed the Cubs to avoid the season sweep.
Carroll fell victim to what all rookie pitchers face. When one begins to accumulate more innings in the majors, opponents have more to work with when devising a plan to beat them.
In his first two outings, Carroll found success pounding the ball low in the zone to ensure a multitude of ground balls. This would work especially well in the hitter friendly ballpark that is US Cellular Field. However, this time the Cubs forced Carroll early to elevate his pitches and disregard the dangers of doing so. After jumping out to an early lead, Carroll appeared flustered on the mound. His lack of composure led to countless pitches being left over the heart of the plate.
The White Sox have 27-year-old Tommy Hanson, who unlike Carroll has had success for an extended period of time in the majors, waiting for a call-up while in Class AAA Charlotte. Just like people could not rush to judgment before Carroll’s first impressive start, they cannot be quick to write him off after his first rough outing.
Hanson provides an option for the Sox to go to if they want to end the Carroll experiment. However, Carroll has shown enough positives in his first two starts to warrant a couple more opportunities to prove he deserves to stick in the Sox rotation. All Carroll has to do now is adjust to the adjustments that teams are making before they face him. Sounds easy, but nothing is ever easy in the game of baseball.