The Indians’ vaunted rotation continued its abominable August as Josh Tomlin allowed a crooked number in the third inning and was knocked out in the fifth on the way to a 13-7 Tribe loss to the Yankees on Friday night. Four Indians pitchers combined to allow 24 base-runners (16 hits and eight walks) en route to their fourth thumping in five days this month.
Tomlin, who had allowed only 14 walks but a career-high 25 home runs in 19 starts this season, was lit up by a Starlin Castro grand slam in the bottom of the third that broke the game open at 6-0. Tomlin’s success, not only this season but in his career, has been largely due to his ability to throw strikes and limit the damage that the inevitable long ball would cause. 16 of his 25 home runs allowed this season had been solo shots, and only one home run was hit with even two men aboard.
Castro’s blast blew those trends, and the game, out of the water. Interestingly, it came six years to the day that Tomlin had allowed his only other career grand slam – a fourth inning blast by Adrian Beltre at Fenway Park in Tomlin’s third career start on August 5th, 2010.
The Indians mounted a mild mid-game comeback, including the welcome site of some long-awaited offense out of the catcher position. Chris Gimenez’s fifth inning home run, his third of the year, cut the lead to 6-3. It was Gimenez’s first home run since May 24th. Gimenez has slashed an anemic .187/.225/.200 in his 35 game homerless streak.
By the top of the eighth, the Indians trailed 11-6 but loaded the bases without an out and suddenly it seemed to occur to everyone that this is a Yankee ballclub that just traded away 2/3 of their “No-Runs DMC” bullpen. A couple of key hits could have put the Indians right back in the game. Veteran Adam Warren retired the next three Indians in a row, however, and the Indians final threat was squashed.
The Indians rotation still ranks second in the AL in ERA, but have been through a brutal turn through the rotation in August. In five games this month, and four losses, the starting pitching has completed 17.1 innings allowing 30 earned runs on 39 hits with 15 walks and 10 strike outs. That’s a 1-4 record with a 15.61 ERA, going just three innings per start. The last effective start was Corey Kluber’s seven shutout innings against Oakland last Sunday, 7/31.
Is it just a rough spell in an otherwise excellent season, or a sign of troubles yet to come? Danny Salazar’s arm soreness does not bode well, but there seems little else to signal that this is anything other than an aberration. Only time will tell and Kluber gets a chance to step up as the staff ace tomorrow and end the suffering when he faces CC Sabathia in game two of the series.