I never think too much about the whole “Battle of Ohio” thing. When I was growing up, Cincinnati was a team the Browns played twice a year and the Reds were part of the terra incognita of the National League. It always felt like a manufactured rivalry. The Indians didn’t start playing the Reds regularly until 1997. Thursday’s night’s game was not only the the fourth and final time the Tribe will play the Reds this season, it also marked the 99th the two teams have met since 1997. Ohio Cup or not, I was still hoping for a sweep. The Indians had positively crushed the Reds in their two games here in Cleveland and eked out a win in extra innings on Wednesday when Francisco Lindor homered in the 12th. I was starting to worry that the law of averages was going to catch up with us. Since they were playing in the National League park, I was quietly glad that Josh Tomlin was starting for the Tribe because he’s one of the few AL pitchers who seems to know his way around the batter’s box.
He did not disappoint. The first three innings of were relatively quiet. Tomlin started the game by giving up a hit to Reds’ lead off man Zack Cozart then proceeded to retire the next nine Cincinnati batters. He also cracked the Indians’ first hit of the night, a single up the middle to center. He was left stranded, but that hit seemed to get the offense going.
All sorts of stuff happened in the 4th inning. Francisco Lindor started off the 4th with a single but reached second on a throwing error by Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. Then Carlos Santana slammed a hard home run into right center field to put the Indians up 2-0. It was Santana’s sixth home run of the year. Not to be outdone, Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto came up in the bottom of the 4th with one man on and smacked his sixth home run of the year to tie things up. The only thing the Tribe didn’t match the Reds on was errors–Cincinnati y had two for the inning, Cleveland had one.
Tomlin continued to help his own cause, leading off the 5th with a double. He then scored on humungous double by Rajai Davis. Davis then stole third base, which allowed him to score on a single by Lindor. Then it was a repeat of the 4th inning as Santana came to bat and smacked another two-run homer. A four-run 5th inning? Yes, please.
The Indians scored one more in the 6th, and again it was Tomlin and Davis were in the thick of it. Juan Uribe singled to start the inning. Tomlin came up with one out and a runner on first. As much as I would have liked to see him try and go 3-3, Tomlin was a good soldier (and a good Little Cowboy) and laid down a lovely bunt to move Uribe into scoring position. Rajai Davis hit yet another double to bring him home, making the score 7-2, Indians.
That’s where the score would stay. Tomlin pitched a total of 7.2 innings, which had to be a welcome break for the bullpen after the previous night’s 12-innings. He gave up 5 hits, 2 earned runs, walked only 1, and struck out 7. Tomlin leads the AL with the fewest walks–five (among qualifiers). And that includes the one walk tonight. Five. The Indians’ win tonight also lifts him to 6-0. The last Indians starter to begin the season 6-0 was Cliff Lee in 2008. Nobody’s making comparisons, but that’s some fine company to be with.
And in spite of my generally ambivalent attitude to the whole “Battle of Ohio” concept, it’s impossible not to take a small amount of glee in scoring 43 runs on 56 hits over a four-game series sweep.