You could tell that it wasn’t going to be a good night for Indians starter Josh Tomlin when it took him ten pitches to get through the first batter he faced. Eventually he did get The Greatest Yankee Of All Time, Derek Jeter, to ground out to second base. Tomlin then took nine pitches to walk Curtis Granderson. The next batter, Mark Teixeira, singled on the seventh pitch. 26 pitches, one out recorded, two men on base. Not good. The Yankees’ cleanup hitter, Robinson Cano, watched two balls go by, then hit a double to deep center field, scoring Granderson and Teixeira. Cano tried to stretch his hit to a triple, but was thrown out at third. 29 pitches, two outs recorded (only one of which was due to effective pitching on Tomlin’s part), two runs in. Definitely not good.
Those weren’t the only runs Tomlin were to give up tonight, not by a long shot, but they were the only runs the Yankees needed to win the game, which they did by a score of 7-1. The Indians managed to push one run across the plate in the eighth inning, when Lonnie Chisenhall led off with a single, followed by a double from Shin-Soo Choo; Chiz later scored on Jason Kipnis’s sacrifice fly. Remarkably, that was the first time the Indians had gotten back-to-back hits since the fifth inning of last Wednesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, 42 innings ago. You don’t have to be Bill James to know that a team won’t win many ballgames with that kind of an offense, and right now that’s the kind of offense the Cleveland Indians have.
Getting back to Tomlin, he allowed back-to-back home runs in the second inning, and two runs in the third inning, one of which also came via the long ball. He did not come back out for the fourth. IPL blogger Ryan McCrystal recently wrote here that the Indians starters have been “consistently inconsistent.” He was right about that, and lately no Tribe starter has been as consistently inconsistent as Tomlin. His last four starts have been excellent, then atrocious, then excellent again, then, tonight, atrocious. If this pattern holds, look for Tomlin to hurl a gem against the Orioles this coming Saturday.
One bright spot: tonight’s relief pitchers acquitted themselves well, with Scott Barnes, Esmil Rogers, and Jeremy Accardo allowing only one run over their combined five innings of work. Had the Tribe bats not been left behind at JFK Airport, and had Tomlin not put the Indians in so deep a hole, they would have kept the Tribe in the game. But you know what they say about ifs and buts.
Of course, teams with starters who are consistently inconsistent don’t usually contend for division titles. Nor do teams who, like the Indians, score two runs or fewer in one-third of their games. With the Indians facing some solid teams over the next two weeks (the Yankees, the Angels, the Orioles, and the Rays, each of whom are well above .500), things could look bleak for the kids from Cleveland by the All-Star break unless the pitching and the offense step up and take care of business. Can they do it? We’ll know in a fortnight.
At least the White Sox lost tonight, too. The Indians remain in second place in the AL Central, trailing the White Sox by half a game.
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