CLEVELAND -- The profundity of the Indians' offensive struggles didn't bother Carlos Carrasco in his previous two starts entering Saturday. When the Tribe finally backed the right-hander with some run support, he still pitched as if he had no margin for error.
Carrasco took the mound riding a two-start scoreless streak. This time, however, he zeroed in on posting a zero in the opponent's hit column, flustering Pirates batters with near-unhittable changeups and sliders.
Carrasco pitched into the seventh inning and five Indians drove in runs in Cleveland's 5-1 victory on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Progressive Field.
"He mixed his pitches very well and went deep into the game," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
The win marks the first time since June 1 that the Indians have won consecutive games. Cleveland (38-31) took over sole possession of first place in the American League Central.
Pittsburgh (35-35) scratched across its only run in the seventh inning -- snapping Carrasco's streak of 21 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
"He looks very good right now," Acta said. "He looks like he can throw any pitch in any count and he's mixing them appropriately."
Carrasco (7-3, 3.87) breezed through the first five frames -- a second-inning walk to Lyle Overbay the only blip keeping him from perfection.
Pirates catcher Michael McKenry broke up Carrasco's no-hit bid with a single off the glove of Indians second baseman Orlando Cabrera to start the sixth inning.
Carrasco said he wasn't thinking about the goose egg in Pittsburgh's hit column.
"I just took a deep breath," Carrasco said. "I felt relaxed. I gave up a base hit, and that's it, so I kept working."
A Jose Tabata single two batters later placed two on with one out, but Carrasco struck out Xavier Paul and Andrew McCutchen to escape unharmed.
"That at-bat against McCutchen was huge," Acta said. "He showed some growing up there."
Carrasco tossed 8 1/3 shutout innings against the Twins on June 7. He followed that up with seven scoreless frames against the Yankees on Monday. The Indians won both contests, 1-0.
The 24-year-old said he had even better command of his pitches on Saturday than he did in those two starts.
"[I had better control of] everything: curveball, slider, changeup, especially my fastball," Carrasco said.
Carrasco's scoreless streak was the longest since Fausto Carmona blanked opponents for 22 innings last September.
Designated hitter Garrett Jones, who clawed out one of the Pirates' four hits, said that Carrasco's changeup stymied the Pittsburgh hitters.
"He mixed his changeup and had great movement," Jones said. "He was throwing changeups in all counts. His pitches were effective and it's hard to square up against a guy like that."
The Indians finally offered Carrasco some run support, rather than make him protect a 1-0 advantage.
The Tribe wasted no time jumping out to a lead, as Grady Sizemore crossed home plate in the first inning on a Carlos Santana sacrifice fly. Cleveland improved to 16-4 when scoring in the opening frame.
Santana started at first base in place of Matt LaPorta, who the team placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday. LaPorta suffered what manager Manny Acta termed a "mild high ankle sprain" after his ankle gave way and he fell to the ground when he got caught in a rundown during Friday's 5-1 victory against Pittsburgh.
Travis Hafner had a scheduled day off on Saturday. Sizemore, who took over Hafner's customary designated-hitter spot, reached base three times and scored twice.
"The whole night was a battle," said Pirates starter Paul Maholm (3-8, 3.29), who allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. "You do all you can to put up zeroes. It was just one of those days."
Sizemore's double down the right-field line scored Austin Kearns with two outs in the second inning to extend the Indians' lead to 2-0.
Cabrera tacked on the Indians' third run with a home run that barely cleared the 19-foot wall in left field in the sixth inning, his first dinger since April 16 and third this season.
Sizemore tripled off the top of the wall in center field in the seventh inning, despite fireworks going off to signify what many in the crowd of 31,865 thought was a home run. Michael Brantley plated Sizemore moments later with a sacrifice fly to give the Indians a 4-1 edge.
Asdrubal Cabrera scored on a Shin-Soo Choo single later in the inning to tack on the Tribe's final run.
Five runs were more than enough for Carrasco, who has a 0.41 ERA in his last three starts.
"If I throw a no-hitter, that's good," Carrasco said. "[But] the most important thing is that I need to keep throwing like I've thrown the last three games.
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.