Indians 4, Twins 2: Welcome Back, Little Cowboy

Josh TOmlinAll spring, Josh Tomlin looked like the leader in the clubhouse for the fifth spot in the rotation. Of the four men battling for the final slot – Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Aaron Harang being the others – Tomlin pitched the best. However, there was one major obstacle working against him; Tomlin had a minor league option remaining while his main competition (Carrasco), didn’t.

Nobody will ever confuse Josh’s fastball with Carrasco’s and Carlos’s “upside” has been a tease that the Indians have been trying to harness for four years. The Indians brass gave Carrasco the job despite giving up 14 runs in 15.2 spring innings. Tomlin was sent down to Columbus.

Well, what many expected happened. Carrasco couldn’t even make it out of April before being sent to the bullpen and the Indians chose Tomlin over red-hot Trevor Bauer to take his spot in the rotation. Both have been dominant in Columbus, but it was Tomlin’s last two starts where he pitched 17 scoreless innings that helped earn him the call.

Tuesday was his turn and it lined up perfectly for when the Indians needed him. He set out to make the most of his first start in the bigs since July of 2012. Now a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, Tomlin was ready, and he looked like the guy we all came to know and love during the lean Manny Acta years.

“Before the game, I walked down and told him, ‘Enjoy this,”’ said Terry Francona. “He loves to compete and when we gave him the lead, he did exactly what you’re supposed to do.”

As we have been accustomed to seeing, Josh pounded the strike zone and worked quickly, carving up the Minnesota Twins into the seventh inning. He entered the frame carrying a two-hit shutout before Chris Collabello got him for a solo homer. He would leave with two outs to a standing ovation. Tomlin struck out four and walked just one on 93 pitches. The run of great Tribe starts didn’t stop with The Little Cowboy. He kept the train rolling.

“Any time you get the call to come up here, you want to do everything you can to help this team win. I definitely had some anxiety going before the game, but good anxiety. The same anxiety I’ve gotten in years past. To come out there and pitch well, pitch [deep] into the game, it was pretty special for me.”

Over the last four games, Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, and Tomlin have allowed just three earned runs in 28.2 innings pitched. This just in – that’s pretty good. If not for a lack of offense and John Axford’s back-to-back poor outings, the Wahoos could be looking at a five-game winning streak and all kinds of momentum.

Speaking of that offense, it was more than obvious that something needed to give. They had only been able to produce five runs in their last three games – four of the five came from a dropped pop up, a sacrifice fly, and two solo homers from the now DFA’d third-string catcher (George Kottaras). They seemed intent on changing things early.

The freshly shaved Nick Swisher doubled with one out in the first and was immediately brought home on an RBI single from one of the few Indians who has produced all season, Michael Brantley. With two out and Brantley on third, the Tribe received a gift that they have been giving to others this season. David Murphy tapped a slow roller down the line at first that Collabello booted. It was literally the Bill Buckner/Mookie Wilson play.

An inning later, Lonnie Chisenhall kept his hot streak going with a leadoff single and advanced on Sam Deduno’s balk. Yan Gomes then woke up from his 2-for-14 slump with a double to the right-center gap, giving the Tribe a 3-0 lead. Then with two down and Gomes still on second, Swisher singled sharply up the middle for the Indians’ fourth run. It had to be the beard for the ice cold Swisher, who had two hits and smoked the ball his first three times up.

“The name of the game is to score early,” Brantley said. “Give the pitchers a lead so they can get a little more comfortable and even more aggressive. We need to do a better job of just continuing to put pressure on the defense and continue to put runs on the board.”

Tomlin would end up getting the win, but of course things had to get interesting thanks to more bad Tribe defense. Marc Rzcepczynski had to get an extra out in the seventh after his strikeout of Eduardo Escobar got by Gomes. In the eighth, Gomes’s eighth error on another strikeout (this time on a throw to first) had Scott Atchison needing to get four outs.

With Axford not available after pitching in the last three games, Francona turned to Bryan Shaw for the save. He retired the first two Twins and then induced a routine groundball to Asdrubal Cabrera at short which should have ended the game. Instead, Asdrubal bobbled it for an error. Naturally, the next batter Escobar, doubled in Kurt Suzuki, bringing the tying run to the plate. But there would be no Twins miracle as pinch-hitter Josmiel Pinto popped out to Cabrera to end the game.

Game three of the four game set will feature the Tribe’s Danny Salazar (1-3, 5.93 ERA) and Minnesota’s Ricky Nolasco (2-3, 5.82 ERA).

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 (photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

  • boomhauertjs

    Trying not to think about the games the Tribe wasted by starting Carrasco instead of Tomlin/Bauer…just admit that the Cliff Lee trade was a total bust.
    On the bright side, you have to feel pretty good about the immediate future of the starting rotation, even with Masterson’s likely free agency departure. Hopefully, Salazar keeps it going tonight.

  • mgbode

    three earned runs in 28.2 innings pitched

    just gotta remember, the Mickey magic doesn’t work in April (sorry, they somehow mis-spelled pitchers)

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m437p4XKGi1rw17odo1_r1_500.gif

  • nj0

    People don’t want to hear it, but Carlos really did not pitch that poorly in his four starts. I may be one of the last who believes he still has upside. Sort of like Jimenez. So I have faith. Keep hope alive.

  • CB Everett

    Yessir. Let’s hope Danny boy gets himself on the right track.
    Starting pitching momentum is a real thing, and the next guy out each day wants to keep it going. Those guys have been nothing short of stellar lately.
    Now if only the offense could get some consistent legs…

  • mgbode

    forgetting about the standings this season and thinking more about the future corps of this club (which was extremely suspect just a few years ago):

    C: Yan Gomes – 26 / R.Perez – 26
    1B: Jesus Aguilar – 24
    2B: Jason Kipnis – 27 / R. Rodriguez – 21
    SS: F.Lindor – 20 / J. Ramirez – 21
    3B: Carlos Santana – 28 / Lonnie Chisenhall – 25
    OF: Brantley – 27 / Moncrief – 25 / Frazier – 19 / Naquin – 22

    I’m assuming we let Swisher and Bourn go when their contracts expire. Santana and Kipnis may price themselves out eventually(even Brantley), so I put their “next-up” guys there too, but all of it’s awhile off.

    Honestly, it’s sort of exciting to think that we may be developing a system rather than a window. Though, no, I don’t know what we do with 1B long-term other than hopefully deal one of our defensive middle IF for one?

  • nj0

    Aguilar!

  • mgbode

    I see and am enticed by the upside, but we could not afford to keep throwing him out there when Tomlin and Bauer were doing so well. Let him get himself right from the bullpen (and hopefully become dominant and take Axford’s job).

  • mgbode

    I could have sworn I put him in there? Weird. Anyways, yes, add him to the list of OFers.

    Jesus Aguilar – 24

  • nj0

    He’s a first baseman primarily.

  • mgbode

    shows how much I pay attention to the minors. I thought we tried him there but still thought of him elsewhere. I went and looked and see that I am wrong though. So, I am updating the above chart and it looks better now too :)

    Thank you sir.

  • nj0

    Absolutely. I’m just not ready to cut bait on him yet, unlike 98% of the fans out there. Also, starting him made sense because it delayed Bauer’s service time by a year and let us see where Tomlin was at after Tommy John.

    Anyway, I’d rather see Carlos get himself right and become a starter. I think that’s still possible.

  • nj0

    I’m also curious about Roberto Perez who I don’t know anything about. 25 year old catcher who is all of a sudden mashing in Columbus. Sample size and all that, but interesting none the less.

    I love how we have like four or five prospects at both catcher and shortshops.

  • nj0

    It seems like, no matter how much attention you pay to the minors, you’re missing some prospect somewhere. Actually, MLB is kind of like that. Nothing like watching an NL game and seeing some guy you thought retired three years ago.

  • nj0

    Disqus ate another post about our starting pitching.

    Salazar
    Kluber
    McAllister
    Bauer
    Tomlin
    Carrasco
    Cody Anderson

  • nj0

    I’ve never been more optimistic for a 13-19 team.

  • mgbode

    Imagine what some NL fans think when Jason Giambi steps up to the plate.

    NL fan: I thought that guy retired. Didn’t he manage the Rockies?

  • mgbode

    I love defensive catchers that are praised for how they handle pitchers. I’m a sucker for them (I heart you Kelly Shoppach). So yes, his all-of-a-sudden bat has me excited (and probably fruitlessly so, but it worked for Yan Gomes!).

  • mgbode

    agreed and that is despite how horrid they have been on defense. i mean, bleck!

  • nj0

    He who is on pace for a 35 error season.

    I had never looked at the all-time single season leaders in errors. Those dead ball teams did not value fielding.

  • mgbode

    yeah, I didn’t even list the SP because my hope is that Mickey truly is our pitching savant that just helps develop these guys and gets the most out of them. Texas, Atlanta, St.L, Oakland, and Tampa all have systems that just pump out pitcher after pitcher and the name/prospect-ranking doesn’t seem to matter.

  • mgbode

    I know. I meant 2013 Gomes. I don’t know what he is doing this year. It’s like the defensive malaisse is contagious.

  • Steve

    What do people think about the idea of calling up Lindor now, and moving Cabrera to 2B until Kipnis gets back?

  • Steve

    I’d say House’s start to this season puts him back in the possible starter camp and ahead of Anderson.

  • mgbode

    no. I was hoping that Ramirez would take a stranglehold of the position and force Asdrubal out when Kipnis came back, but he hasn’t done it yet.

    I still don’t want to rush Lindor though.

  • mgbode

    I do not want to rush Lindor.

  • Steve

    I’m against rushing Lindor too. But just as a temporary measure until Kipnis is back.

    Ramirez isn’t taking a stranglehold of any jobs just yet.

  • mgbode

    yeah, just to me anything temporary is rushing him. when he’s ready to be here fulltime, he should be called up and I don’t think he is quite yet.