It’s so difficult for one starting pitcher to beat the same team three times over the course of an entire season…let alone attempting to beat the reigning World Series Champion Kansas City Royals when facing them for the third time in a 2-month span like Josh Tomlin did Tuesday night. But he was oh so close.
Tomlin once again proved his immense value as a key cog in the Tribe rotation with another stellar, gritty outing coming off an Indians loss the night before. “The Little Cowboy”–as he is affectionately nicknamed–was rock solid, pitching in and out of jams to give Terry Francona seven innings of 1-run baseball. A really impressive effort for a pitcher facing a top-notch lineup for the third time already this season, pitching in a ballpark where he has not fared well in the past. Tomlin gave the Indians everything they could ask for.
Then Tito decided to go with Bryan Shaw in the 8th inning.
Shaw would fall behind in the count 2-0 to each of the first three hitters he faced (Escobar, Hosmer, Cain), but battle back to give up only an infield single to Hosmer on a play–albeit a difficult one–which Jose Ramirez usually makes. Clearly Shaw’s command was lacking, which caused him to uncork a middle-of-the-plate meatball which Salvador Perez catapulted into the left field seats for a 2-run home run to give Kansas City the lead and eventually 3-2 victory. With Wade Davis getting a rest, the Indians would put together multiple strong at bats against Joakim Soria and put two runners on base, only to fall short on a Kipnis infield pop out.
This win was a huge momentum builder for the Royals. Instead of Cleveland pushing their division lead back to 3 games and leaving town in 1st place–regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s game–instead, Kansas City’s big come-from-behind win pulls them to within one game of the AL Central Lead with a chance to pull even with the Tribe with a victory in Wednesday’s series finale.
Let’s take a look at some key game notes, stats, and what’s on deck:
Role Change Forthcoming?: Prior to Shaw’s rocky 8th inning Tuesday night, he gave the Angels a walk-off win in Anaheim in a game in which he recorded 1 out, threw only 8 of 17 pitches for strikes, and was eaten alive by the bottom of the Angels lineup. Shaw now owns an 0-3 record with a “not-so-setup-man-worthy” 5.68 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. To add insult to injury, he has allowed 7 home runs in just 25.1 innings pitched.
Rise up Tito: Francona loves to stick with his veterans, through thick and thin. It’s okay to stick with Napoli in the cleanup spot when he’s in a slump, because his run production and power numbers have been superb. It’s okay to stick with Yan Gomes, because “Gomer” has battled injuries, been a pivotal part in the success of the Tribe rotation, and continues to show power despite a low batting average. It’s NOT okay to keep sticking with Bryan Shaw in key late-inning spots! A 5.68 ERA and 7 home runs allowed are scary numbers for a pivotal setup man on a team built around starting pitching and thriving in close, low-scoring games.
Otero to the Rescue?: Dan Otero boasts a 0.70 ERA. He’s a veteran with good stuff and an impressive 23:6 strikeout to walk ratio. Otero has allowed zero home runs. Time for a new 8th-inning setup man. Make…the…change…Tito.
Carlos SLAMtana: With another home run Tuesday night, Carlos Santana became the Tribe’s all-time leader for dingers in Kaufman Stadium with 13.
Key Miscues: Despite Shaw’s woes stealing the headlines, the Indians missed several key opportunities to score runs early in the game. Mike Napoli would hit into a 5-4-3 double play on a 2-0 pitch with two runners on in the first inning. Francisco Lindor would be picked off second base after doubling in the 3rd inning.
The Need for Speed: Rajai Davis has had many key hits this season, but it is his speed that provides a much-needed game changer for the Tribe and causes fits for opponents. Davis had two stolen bases Tuesday night to give him 17 on the season. Davis aggressively stole second base with two outs in the 9th inning to put himself in scoring position and give Kipnis a chance to tie the game. Kip would pop out with two runners on base to end the game.
Key in the Clutch: Salvador Perez’ game-winning 2-run home run broke a streak of 11 consecutive solo homers for Kansas City hitters.
On Deck: The Tribe will look to salvage the final game of this 3-game series and hold onto first place in the Al Central, when Corey Kluber squares off against Ian Kennedy in Wednesday night’s series finale.