What I mentioned as a distinct possibility in Thursday’s pre-game open thread came true — the “good Josh Tomlin” showed up with smart pitching and pinpoint control to lead Cleveland to a much-needed victory. An offensive outpouring made sure the “W” stood for “whitewash” in the 11-2 win as the Tribe avoided a sweep by the Padres.
After a string of poor starts and gopher balls, Tomlin pitched brilliantly in this game. He absolutely pounded the strike zone, throwing 74 of 96 pitches — a staggering 81 percent — for strikes. Josh pitched ahead in the count all night, going 7 strong innings with 6 strikeouts.
Tomlin retired the first 12 hitters he faced. Then, as is often the case, things went awry for him in the fifth inning. But even the 2 runs he gave up weren’t the result of bad pitching. Sure, the first two batters in the fifth hit a solid double and single. But the double that knocked in the first run was an excuse-me slicer on a two-strike pitch that landed barely fair inside the first base line and had so much spin on it, the ball bounced sideways into the stands. The other run came on a sacrifice fly to left.
Facing the rookie pitching phenom Dinelson Lamet, the Tribe offense showed no mercy. The Indians got on the board right away in the first, with Francisco Lindor starting the barrage with a single. Michael Brantley followed with his first triple of the season, scoring Lindor from first. Then, after the team had gone the previous 7 home games in a row without a homer, red-hot Jose Ramirez broke that chain with a 2-run dinger.
Edwin Encarnacion added another homer in the fifth, knocking Lamet out of the game. And in the sixth, Yan Gomes positively scorched another bomb beyond the trees outside the center field wall.
Encarnacion went 4 for 5 for the night, including a double. Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall also added doubles to the hit parade. Ramirez was 3 for 5, contributing to the second game in a row where Cleveland cranked out 14 hits. Unlike Wednesday’s game, however, this effort produced 11 runs instead of 2 (admittedly aided by 3 San Diego errors).
Bryan Shaw and Shawn Armstrong locked down the victory with scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Oh, and one other note: with each passing game, watching Bradley Zimmer cover more ground than fertilizer and make leaping catches from his gazelle-like stride becomes an ever greater joy.
The Indians begin a three-game series at home against the Tigers on Friday as they fight to retain first place in the AL Central.