Covering the Bases: Game 131

Tomlin1Some notes and quotes from Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Twins

FIRST: The Indians stuck with Josh Tomlin for one more start. It could be a while before he is granted another.

On Tuesday night, Tomlin allowed four runs on seven hits and exited after 1.2 innings, marking the shortest start of his career. His propensity for allowing home runs persisted one pitch into the game. Tomlin fired an 89-mph fastball and Brian Dozier drilled it into the left-field bleachers.

Tomlin understands the gravity of the situation.

“It’s tough, because it’s not just me, personally, what I’m going through,” Tomlin said. “It’s just what I’m doing to the team every fifth day right now. It’s not giving them a chance to win. It’s putting them in a hole early. They’re having to fight back a lot of the times that I go out there and pitch these last couple outings. We’re in a playoff hunt. We’re trying to get to October and play deep into October.

“Doing that right now is not putting us in a good position to do that. It’s more frustrating on my end, because I’m not being able to help the team win and go deep into games, and kind of taxing the bullpen. I’m putting the guys in a hole. It’s tough for me to go out there and put up starts like that the past four or five outings, whatever it’s been.”

Over six August starts, Tomlin has gone 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA, allowing 35 runs (34 earned) on 46 hits in 26.2 innings. He has allowed 10 of his MLB-high 35 home runs in that span. Tomlin admitted that this has been a perplexing stretch for him, given everything he has examined in an effort to solve the issues.

“It’s very confusing for me,” Tomlin said. “I went back and looked back at a lot of stuff. I don’t see a trend. I don’t see a trend anywhere. The stuff is not ticking down at all. I feel like it’s actually a little better now than it was earlier in the year. My cutter is harder, which I went back and looked at it to see if it was flatter. Maybe it was just kind of chasing barrels a little bit, but it’s not really doing that. Then, after the All-Star break early on, it was about executing pitches out of the stretch. I wasn’t executing pitches, and now I am.”

Tomlin’s postgame session was an exercise in accountability, especially when he was asked if he would be disappointed if manager Terry Francona made a change to the rotation.

“I don’t know how I could be disappointed about that. I don’t,” Tomlin said. “Whatever moves he makes, I understand. It’s not like I’m going out there and throwing eight shutout every time right now. I’m struggling, and I know I’m struggling. I take full ownership of that. It’s my fault. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m anxious and ready to get back here tomorrow to try to figure it out.

“That’s the only thing I can do. Not dwell on it by no means, but come back tomorrow, figure some stuff out, talk to [pitching coach Mickey Callaway], talk to Tito, talk to some guys in the rotation and figure out what I’m doing. If I’m getting in a pattern. If I’m not pitching in enough. If I’m throwing too many of this, too less of that. I need to figure it out and figure it out quick. But, I understand. Yeah. Whatever he has to do, I get it.”

Francona noted that there is an off-day for the Tribe coming on Thursday. That means Cleveland could conceivably skip Tomlin’s turn, while deciding what to do. Rookie righty Mike Clevinger would be the obvious choice to step up. The Triple-A Columbus rotation right now consists of Ryan Merritt, Shawn Morimando, Adam Plutko, Toru Murata and Shawn Haviland. Cody Anderson is still working out of the bullpen.

“We have the ability to maybe juggle our rotation a little bit,” Francona said. “I don’t think 5-10 minutes after the game is probably the time to do it, but we’ll sit down and go through it a little bit.”

SECOND: The play you’ll be seeing the most from Tuesday’s game arrived in the sixth inning with Zach McAllister on the hill.

Kurt Suzuki drilled a 95-mph fastball back up the middle at 101 mph and it struck McAllister in the left calf. As the pitcher’s leg rose up, so did the ball, beginning an improbable play that was both amazing and funny to witness.

McAllister spotted the baseball in the air, spun quickly, stuck out his glove and made the catch.

“Mac did his thing,” Indians reliever Dan Otero said with a grin. “Playing hacky sack with the ball.”

Added Francona: “I don’t know if that caught him, or he caught it.”

THIRD: It was the second gem by an Indians pitcher in the win.

In the third inning, Shawn Armstrong slipped into a base-loaded jam with one out. At that juncture, Francona gave the ball to Otero. Before the pitcher got to work, the manager had a favor to ask.

“I told him when I brought him in, ‘Go get you a double play,'” Francona said.

Otero got Logan Schafer to line a pitch back up the middle, where the pitcher made an impressive stabbing catch for an out. Eddie Rosario began running to third on the play, giving Otero time to flip the ball to shortstop Francisco Lindor, who stepped on second for an inning-ending double play.

Hey, that’s what Francona wanted, right?

“He needs to be more specific,” Otero said. “I was trying to get the ground ball at somebody, but it happened to be a line drive at my face.”

The  bullpen combined for 7.1 shutout innings, giving the group 21 consecutive shutout innings over the past five games. After Armstrong, Otero and McAllister, Bryan Shaw and Andrew Miller finished off the win for the Indians.

HOME: After scoring one run or fewer in seven of the past eight games, Cleveland’s offense struck for five against the Twins. Jason Kipnis homered in the first, Rajai Davis added a three-run shot in the second and Lindor used an RBI double in the fourth to put Cleveland ahead for good.

The Indians were also more aggressive on the basepaths, where they uncharacteristically ran into three outs. Davis was caught trying to steal third in the first inning (though Francona thought third baseman Miguel Sano forced Davis off the bag on the play). Chris Gimenez was thrown out at third, trying to take an extra base on a single to left by Davis. Kipnis was also thrown out at the plate, trying to score on Lindor’s double.

Francona had no issues with the team’s approach on the bases.

“I like [aggressiveness] when it’s the right time,” Francona said. “And I thought tonight every one was the right time. Gimenez going to third, I thought was good — guy made a really good throw. Raj, I thought the guy pulled Raj off the bag. I still think that. I think when [the umpire] goes and looks at it, he’ll think the same thing.

“And then the play at home, it’s a perfect throw. I thought it was all good, fundamental baseball, being aggressive. They made some good plays.”

BRANDON GUYER HBP WATCH: He was hit on the left thigh by a pitch in the eighth inning, giving him a Major League-high 29 HBP this season. Guyer continues to close in on Don Baylor’s all-time American League record of 35 in one year.

Here is the updated Guyer Graphic:

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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