Covering the Bases: Game 100
Twins 11, Indians 0
FIRST: The Indians need to do something with their starting rotation.
On Friday night, starter Josh Tomlin’s season-long roller-coaster ride continued in the form of an ugly lopsided loss to the last-place Twins. Tomlin gave up eight runs on 10 hits in four innings, and dropped to 2-5 with a 7.02 ERA across his past eight outings.
“It’s my fault,” Tomlin said. “There’s a reason why we lost the game today. It’s because of me.”
There have been a variety of issues this season for Tomlin, who is now 5-8 with a 5.87 ERA. At the forefront has been a lack of command with his changeup. That, in turn, has made his cutter less effective. Catcher Lou Marson said the cutter has also developed into a mini-slider, and that’s not a good thing for the pitcher.
This has led to more walks, which has made the hits (and home runs) allowed by Tomlin to be all the more damaging. Tomlin gave up homers last year, but he limited them to solo shots for the most part. This year, with his WHIP up to 1.42 from 1.08 in ’11, there has been more traffic coming home on the long balls.
“He doesn’t have that good of stuff to get away with pitches in the middle of the plate and up in the zone,” manager Manny Acta said.
Another issue of late has been Tomlin’s showing in the first inning. He surrendered a three-run homer to Justin Morneau in the first on Friday, continuing an unfortune trend. Last time out, Tomlin gave up a two-run homer in the first. The outing before that, it was another three-run shot.
Overall this year, Tomlin has given up 22 earned runs and six home runs in his 16 first innings. That equates to a 12.38 ERA in the first inning. Last season, when Tomlin won 12 games for the Tribe, he had a 1.38 ERA (4 ER/1 HR/26 IP) in the first inning.
So, what are the Indians to do with Tomlin?
“We’re going to sit down and talk and try to figure things out,” Acta said. “We have to make things better around here, that’s not a secret.”
Acta was also quick to note that Tomlin is not alone in his struggles. The manager did not name anyone else by name, but Derek Lowe’s woes of lates (2-8, 7.59 ERA in his last 12 starts) have been well-documents.
The Indians have one starting pitcher on the horizon in right-hander Roberto Hernandez (eligible to come off the restricted list on Aug. 11). One pitcher getting rave reviews at Triple-A is righty Corey Kluber. Oh, and the Trade Deadline happens to be Tuesday, before Lowe or Tomlin next take the hill.
SECOND: Also working against the Indians on Friday night was the fact that they scored precisely zero runs. It’s tough to win ballgames that way.
Twins lefty Scott Diamond spun a shutout against the Indians, improving to 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two outings vs. Cleveland this season. Over 16 innings against the Tribe this year, Diamond has given up three unearned runs on 10 hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks.
“I was trying to attack,” Diamond said. “I wasn’t going out there for strikeouts. I wanted them to put the ball in play and you saw our defense. It was outstanding. So when that happens, all I’m trying to do is get groundballs.”
The Indians fell to 10-21 on the year against lefty starters.
“He’s got a good cut fastball,” Marson said. “That, and his changeup was good today. I mean, he was pounding the strike zone, getting ahead and had us chasing some bad pitches today. I don’t think we play very good here in Minnesota over the last couple of years. We come in here and they beat us up pretty bad.”
THIRD: Over the offseason, the one player I felt fit exactly what the Indians needed was free-agent left fielder Josh Willingham. He was coming off a solid season with the A’s (29 HR, 98 RBIs) and could provide the Tribe with the right-handed pop they’ve been missing.
Willingham wanted three guaranteed years on his contract. The Indians were willing to offer two. One reason for Cleveland to balk at a third year was the fact that Willingham had averaged only 121 games per year from 2008-11, with 136 games being his high and 102 being his low.
That’s not exactly a history of staying on the field, and the Indians have had enough players in recent years who have struggled in that regard. So, when the Twins came calling with a three-year offer, Willingham took his services to Target Field.
On Friday, the Willinghammer went 2-for-4 with a three-run home run off Tomlin and an RBI single off reliever Jeremy Accardo. On the season, he is now hitting .273 with 26 home runs, 22 doubles and 76 RBIs in 95 games for Minnesota.
Every player has a price, but the Twins are not making Willingham available to potential suitors at the moment.
HOME: The Indians’ incredible comeback win over Justin Verlander and the Tigers on Thursday night had Cleveland fans thinking the club would soar into the Twin Cities on a wave of momentum. The 11-0 blowout loss put an end to all that silliness.
After the game, Acta said, “There’s no such thing as momentum.”
Anyone who has followed my coverage over the years knows I feel the same way. I believe momentum can exist within a singular game, but not over a game-to-game basis. Along those lines, it’s something for people to talk about and debate, but I believe momentum is myth.
As the old baseball adage goes, momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. And, you know, Tomlin just didn’t have it on Friday.
Hopefully, Minnesota doesn’t ride their momentum into Saturday.
Twins (41-58) at Indians (50-50)
at 7:10 p.m. ET Saturday at Target Field